Leading lights of the Australian horticulture industry have been recognised at the Horticulture Awards for Excellence 2024, presented in front of more than 1,500 delegates at the sold-out Hort Connections Gala Dinner in Melbourne last night.

The annual Horticulture Awards for Excellence are awarded to leading growers and industry members for exceptional achievements and innovations across multiple categories, and are widely regarded as the industry’s most prestigious honours.

Ten horticulture industry leaders and pioneers were recognised in this year’s Horticulture Awards for Excellence, and the group included growers, researchers, technology providers, educators and more.

“Each of the winners of this year’s Horticulture Awards for Excellence have made major contributions to the Australian horticulture industry, and they provide clear examples of the innovation and dedication that drives this industry forward,” said AUSVEG CEO Michael Coote.

“For the leadership and value they bring to the Australian horticulture industry, I thank and congratulate all of our winners, as well as the strong field of nominees in this year’s awards.”


Horticulture Awards for Excellence 2024 winners

Syngenta Grower of the Year: Rocky Lamattina & Sons – VIC

Corteva Agriscience Young Grower of the Year: Zeke Zalsman, Zaldeesh Farms – WA

Bayer Researcher of the Year: Doris Blaesing, RMCG – VIC

Butler Market Gardens Environmental & Sustainability: End Food Waste, Australian Banana Growers Council and Melons Australia – National

UPL Tech & Innovation: RapidAim – QLD

Muirs Community Stewardship Award: Veg Education – VIC

Hort Innovation Exporter of the Year Award: Nutrano Produce Group – NSW

Boomaroo Nurseries Women in Horticulture: Bree Watson, Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers – QLD

VISY Industry Impact: Ian Layden (Gatton Smart Farm Ag Tech Showcase), QDAF – QLD

Seeka Marketer of the Year Award: Perfection Fresh – NSW


Winner profiles

Syngenta Grower of the Year

Rocky Lamattina & Sons – VIC

In 2024, Rocky Lamattina and Sons secured the Vegetable Farm of the Year award at the AUSVEG VIC Awards for Excellence. Across three generations, their involvement ensures a comprehensive understanding of the business.

Ongoing capital investment drives efficiency in production, harvesting, and processing. Their blend of traditional expertise and modern innovation yields consistent, high-quality products while embracing sustainability. This dedication has earned them industry recognition, solidifying their leadership in the horticultural sector.


Corteva Agriscience Young Grower of the Year

Zeke Zalsman – Zaldeesh Farms – WA

Zeke is the first grower in the country to commercially and independently adopt heat pump technology for greenhouse heating, and has championed the first ever successfully-funded Hort Innovation VegNET  Innovation Fund project.

He took on great risk to his business to the benefit of industry, with the goal of attracting national attention to heat pump technology with the aim of increasing the accessibility of a technology capable of future-proofing protected cropping businesses against rising costs, carbon footprint and threats to social licence.


Bayer Researcher of the Year

Doris Blaesing – RMCG – VIC

Doris works for national agricultural and environmental consultancy RMCG and has been a longstanding contributor and supporter of the SA horticultural industry. She is a strong ongoing resource for industry leaders and agronomists in the field of soil management, biosecurity and certification, and contributes regularly to industry programs in South Australia.

Doris was instrumental in supporting industry to receive recent funding new FertSmart project which will work with industry to trial new fertiliser and organic amendments in industry and quantify their benefit.

Doris is heavily relied on by industry to manage issues around certification, and is known for her willingness to give her time for free to assist with industry issues. This award recognises her commitment to industry over the years, as well as recent work around potato certification, fertiliser efficiency and commitment to assisting the sector grow the research programs available to support industry.


Butler Market Gardens Environmental & Sustainability

End Food Waste Australia, Australian Banana Grower’s Council and Melons Australia – SA

The Banana and Melon Food Waste Action Plans are dedicated to sustainable practices that actively help Australia reduce the 3 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables wasted annually. This benefits people, the planet and industry profitability.

These plans outline priority actions to prevent food waste occurring initially, repurpose waste to new resources, increase food donation and enable policy and other initiatives to streamline reduction activities. The award winners demonstrate true sustainability leadership via collaboration.


UPL Tech & Innovation

RapidAIM – QLD

RapidAIM is a bio-digital, real-time detection and crop protection system for pests that pose significant problems to fruit, vegetable and nut producers. Since becoming commercial, the team at RapidAIM have undertaken significant additional research, field trials and grower engagement which has contributed to the development or refinement of new RapidAIM products – RapidFLY, RapidMEGA, RapidFAW, and RapidMOTH. The technology has a 98 percent accuracy rate and benefits multiple horticulture crops.


Muirs Community Stewardship Award

VEG Education – VIC

VEG Education pioneers innovation in horticulture education and community engagement. Their Fresh Safe Program sets new safety standards, while initiatives like Farm Gate and Veg Influencer promote agricultural awareness and healthier communities. Through strategic partnerships and innovative platforms, VEG Education exemplifies excellence in industry impact and community stewardship, shaping a sustainable future for the horticulture sector.


Hort Innovation Exporter of the Year Award

Nutrano Produce Group – NSW

Established in 2016, Nutrano is one of Australia’s leading produce companies, founded on a deep respect for their people, growers and the communities in which they operate in. The Nutrano farming footprint spans over 2,000ha of farms and facilities in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, with more than 300 dedicated employees – increasing to 600 during peak season.

The vertically integrated grower’s core categories are citrus, tropical fruits and blueberries. Nutrano supplies both the domestic and international markets, providing premium fresh produce with export certification to key international markets including Asia, the Middle East, Europe, New Zealand, USA, and Canada.


Boomaroo Nurseries Women in Horticulture

Bree Watson – Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers – QLD

Bree has been a local leader and mentor for over 14 years, and was appointed the first female Chair of the Queensland Horticulture Council. She is sought out to speak at motivational events, was declared Bundaberg’s No.1 most influential person in 2023, has coauthored academic papers and featured in many national publications. She was instrumental in advocating for the reinstatement of Paradise Dam, and through several appearances on Sky News and other media worked tirelessly so Australians knew the value of water security for the farming sector.


VISY Industry Impact

Ian Layden – The Gatton Smart Farm AgTech Showcase – QLD

In 2023, Ian led the Gatton Smart Farm in the delivery of a ground-breaking showcase of ag technology with a program of live field AgTech demonstrations on a scale unseen before in Australia.

The Gatton AgTech Showcase attracted 700 visitors, including 220 growers, to see advanced field tech like FarmDroid’s autonomous seeder & weeder and Stout’s Smart Cultivator. It was the first event in Australia to bring domestic and international AgTech companies together for the horticulture sector. The Showcase has set a new standard for AgTech field days in this country.


Seeka Marketer of the Year Award

Perfection Fresh – NSW

The Quke O’Clock campaign by Perfection Fresh Australia aimed to increase awareness and sales of Qukes® baby cucumbers by promoting them to drive incremental snacking consumption, stealing share from more processed alternatives.

The campaign utilized a 360-degree marketing approach, spreading cohesive messaging across multiple customer touchpoints. Unique elements of the campaign included a licensing partnership with Sesame Street to appeal to both children and adults, which drove sales and captured attention.

The campaign employed various marketing tools such as television advertising, programmatic out-of-home advertising, content marketing, radio advertising, and search advertising. Overall, the campaign demonstrated innovation, strategic planning, and effective execution.


For more information about the Horticulture Awards for Excellence 2024, please visit hortconnections.com.au/awards.

Media Contact:
Andrew MacDonald. Phone: 03 9882 0227, Mobile: 0406 836 330, Email: andrew.macdonald@ausveg.com.au