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Syngenta Grower of the Year winners are avo trailblazers

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt, Annaleise and Lachlan Donovan, and Syngenta ANZ Country Head Paul Luxton.

Few avocado producers can match the scale of Donovan Family Investments but there’s much, much more to celebrate about this enterprise than the number of hectares under trees.

As recipients of the Syngenta Grower of the Year Award at Hort Connections 2022, Lachlan and Annaleise Donovan represent what many in the industry strive for.

The quality of their produce speaks volumes but it’s also the excellence displayed at every stage from key crop milestones through to packhouse processes, as well as clever solutions to common challenges, and their commitment to the environment. But it takes more than just hard work.

“If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing in this industry, it’s going to make it very hard to succeed,” Mr Donovan said.

“We’ve been living and breathing it since 1991, moving up to Bundaberg about 25 years ago, before buying out the family about 15 years ago.”

The couple’s sons Miles, 29, and Clayton, 26, are also keenly involved in the business, with Mr Donovan quick to credit the boys. More widely, he also acknowledged the value that good people bring to their organisation across the board.

“That new blood really helps grow and expand the business, and it helps share the load,” he said.

“It makes a big difference when having different people in key roles in the business, in terms of bringing everything together successfully, which has also helped us branch out in other fields.

“One of the things we focus on is having a team, it’s not just the family and the staff, it’s the suppliers who are partners in our success.”

The business employs about 100 staff, producing macadamias, their beloved avocados, and running the Dons Fort packhouse, which even handles citrus. Their avocadoes are produced across 10 orchards in the Burnett catchment. 


Lachlan Donovan (left) pictured with sons Miles and Jack, and wife Annaleise in their packhouse.


Mr Donovan said having suppliers who understood the family’s needs had helped make a tremendous difference.

“Whether it’s chemical, nutrition, irrigation, banking, accounting, or machinery dealers… these relationships are what can make life so much easier,” he said.

“We’ve been using AMISTAR® fungicide for quite a while now, going back to when Syngenta did the registration work in our avocados. It was incredible the difference between AMISTAR® and what we were using. And since we changed our packhouse application over to GRADUATE® A+ about three years ago, our post-harvest has been next level, so much better than what we had before.”

The value for Mr Donovan was not only having the right tools, but having the support behind them.

“The right tools are nothing without the right relationships and being able to use the tools effectively.”

The Donovans were among a who’s-who of hard workers recognised in the National Awards for Excellence, at a gala dinner on 8 June, 2022.

The awards ceremony was the finale for Hort Connections, Australia and New Zealand’s premier horticulture conference and trade show, of which Syngenta is the lead strategic partner.

Mr and Mrs Donovan set a high bar in their business achievements, not least because of the smarts they’ve displayed in diversification of their business. 

One of the newer arms of the business is Hort-IT, bringing together technical expertise in the development of systems including automation of things including packhouse processes and irrigation, now helping other farmers implement cameras, servers, computers and cloud-based services to solve various challenges along the way.

The Avolution service is another diversification, being Australia’s leading marketing company for avocado and fruit growers, supplying the retail, wholesale and foodservice industries, domestically and internationally.  

Syngenta ANZ Country Head Paul Luxton congratulated the Donovans upon receiving the Syngenta Grower of the Year Award, as passionate farmers, savvy business people and environmental custodians.

“Annaleise and Lachlan have been trailblazers in horticulture, with the way they have helped develop the avocado industry here and abroad, through collaboration and the highest attention to detail along the way,” he said.

“As global leaders in R&D, we share their vision for building opportunities through partnerships, and applaud the care they’ve shown for the land and the surrounding environment. 

“We’ve had the great fortune to work hand in glove with them, getting them access to new tools that have directly benefited them and the broader industry, in the management of diseases that would otherwise incur unacceptable losses.”

AUSVEG Chief Executive Officer Michael Coote said the Donovan’s service to horticulture and the growth of avocado exports had taken vision and dedication.

“Annaleise and Lachlan are deserving winners,” he said.

“They are highly dedicated… with Lachlan serving on the board of Australian Avocados for 13 years and having participated in the development of a guide for growing perfect avocados through the Hort Innovation funded project, improving market access for Australian avocados in Asia and the Middle East.

Mr Coote also praised the family’s environmental credentials.

“Within the past 12 months, the Donovan family became the first horticulture enterprise to be accredited through both Fair Farms and Reef Certification, both voluntary programs of industry body Growcom, demonstrating environmental stewardship and ethical employment practices,” he said.

For more information about avocado fungicides, speak to your local Syngenta representative.


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