After a lengthy process to tweak Australia's industry body structure and make it grower owned, Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (HIAL) has now been registered with its first meeting due later this month.
The entity, designed to replace Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL), will function as a new research, development and marketing body to support the AUD$9.5 billion (US$8.37 billion) industry.
The board includes five existing members from the HAL board, along with new faces including apple orchardist and former Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president Susan Finger, New South Wales blueberry grower Ridley Bell, Queensland onion grower David Moon and Western Australian produce exporter Peter Wauchope.
"Horticulture Innovation Australia will be ably led by its board members Ridley Bell, Rob Clark, David Cliffe, Susan Finger, David Moon, Stephen Morrow, Mark Napper, Selwyn Snell and Peter Wauchope," Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said in a release.
"These board members bring well-rounded skills to the company, including a wealth of corporate and horticulture knowledge which will help deliver a profitable future for Australia’s horticulture industry."
The board will vote on its new chair and deputy chair at the inaugural meeting, where Joyce also expects the company's structure and constitution to be established.
"I also expect it to commence negotiations with the government around a deed of agreement which could see it receive and invest more than (AUD)$100 million (US$88.1 million) in grower levies, industry contributions and taxpayer funds in horticulture programmes annually," Joyce said.
Groups such as Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (APAL) and Ausveg have praised the choice of board members and the steps made for a new industry structure.
"We welcome the Minister’s announcement of the Board, its wide-ranging skills and particularly the inclusion of a well-respected apple orchardist. I'd like to congratulate Susan on her appointment and we look forward to working with her and the new Board," said APAL chair John Lawrenson.
"I welcome Minister Joyce's announcement of the Board of Directors which signifies a new era in research and development for Australian horticulture," said Ausveg CEO Richard Mulcahy.
"It is paramount that the interests of Australian vegetable and potato levy payers are met within any new structure, and specifically that the focus of the new organisation ensures the continuity of important research programs and initiatives," Mulcahy added.
The fresh formation is in response to an independent report on HAL and a vote for change from its members, while it also follows the start of a Senate Inquiry into industry structures and levies in agriculture.
"The levy system is a critical element in Australia's research and development model. It is important to ensure it is operating efficiently and effectively. That is why I support the recently commenced Senate inquiry into levies," Joyce said.
"Many of the changes stemming from the HAL independent performance review are foundational and can happen separately to the inquiry.
"While I do not want to pre-empt any outcome of the inquiry, there is still scope to make additional changes to the horticulture levy system later on down the track."