Horticulture leader David Minnis wins University of Queensland’s Gatton Gold Medal for “outstanding contribution”
Industry stalwart David Minnis, whose more than 50-year career has focused on the export of high-quality Australian fruit and vegetables and improving access to international markets, was honoured with the University of Queensland’s (UQ) 2017 Gatton Gold Medal this week.
Minnis accepted the award at the graduation ceremony for the university’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences at UQ Gatton on Thursday (7 December).
UQ Dean of Science and Associate Dean for Research Professor Ian Gentle said the award was made each year to a UQ graduate who had made an outstanding contribution in their field.
“We are delighted that in UQ Gatton’s 120th year, David is recognised for his leadership in scientific, post-harvest innovations and developing export markets for Australia,” Gentle said.
“Only last month, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Hoj announced a new Centre for Horticulture Science will be launched at UQ.
“Horticulture is one of the largest and most diverse industries in Australian agriculture, accounting for 18 per cent of its total value.”
Minnis, now 74, began his career in research and built up a wealth of knowledge on quarantine, biosecurity, market access and international trade. He has worked in the public and private sector and has provided technical and policy advice to both government and industry.
Having earned a Diploma in Horticulture from the Queensland Agricultural College (now UQ Gatton) in 1963, he went on to obtain Bachelors and Masters degrees in horiculture at Lincoln College, New Zealand.
Minnis has held senior roles in Australian horticultural research and exporting organisations, including Austrade, the Australian Horticultural Exporters Association and the Australian Horticultural Research and Development Corporation.
After joining the Victorian Department of Agriculture, he was seconded to the Department of Primary Industries in Canberra in 1978, when Minnis spent time in the UK and Europe reporting on the arrival condition of Australian fruit and vegetable exports. He was again seconded to the commonwealth in 1984 and stationed in SIngapore to report on the outturn of Australian produce and provide market intelligence covering a range of countries in South East Asia and North Asia.
In 1993, Minnis established his own Australian export company, 888 Exports, which he now runs with son Byron, exporting more than A$10m worth of fresh produce a year.
“My scientific background has been very helpful and much of my career has also centred on gaining Australian access to closed or restricted international horticultural markets,” said Minnis.
“It’s important that Australia does export to improve profitability as we have a small population and would otherwise be in an oversupply situation.”
Reflecting on his own Diploma in Horticulture, Minnis told Fruitnet the course had a highly practical dimension that was of great value to his career in the fresh produce business.
“We ploughed the fields, planted vegetable crops, mechanically harvested potatoes, picked citrus fruit and grew plants in glasshouses. We experienced the full range of the seasons at Gatton – you need to do that,” he said. “If you’re studying ag or hort science today, it’s fine to be in the CBD lab but you need to be out in rural areas looking at things.”
In his acceptance speech, Minnis said the good news for today’s graduates is that funding for R&D with Horticulture Innovation Australia under the commonwealth system of matching grower levies has grown to A$84.5m in 2016/17, with a further A$19.3m allocated to promotion and marketing.
“Almost A$104m was invested in the horticulture industry last year with 32 industries paying statutory levies,” he said. “These funds are allocated to projects universities, government agencies and private enterprises can tender for.”
Minnis’s expertise and international standing in the horticulture field have previously been recognised with an Order of Australia Medal, and with award from the Australian Horticultural Exporters Association and Horticulture Australia.
Source: http://www.fruitnet.com Author: John Hay
Image source: http://www.fruitnet.com