AFTER 11 impactful years, Hort Innovation Chair Selwyn Sell is set to retire from horticulture’s research and development corporation in November this year.
The change comes as the company’s Constitution calls for three of its nine sitting Directors to retire from office in 2020. The three positions will be filled by one Director candidate nominated by voting members at the Hort Innovation annual general meeting in November, with a further two appointed by the remaining Board members immediately following the meeting.
While retiring Directors can choose to reapply for directorship, for Selwyn the time will be right to say farewell to the company he’s been a part of for more than a decade, as total retirement beckons on the horizon.
“It’s been a genuine privilege to lead the Board of Hort Innovation for all these years, and to help set the company’s course in delivering research, marketing and trade activities for the profitability and sustainability of horticulture’s producers,” he said.
Selwyn said he recalls his first address to the horticulture sector as Chair of Hort Innovation, then Horticulture Australia Limited, in 2009. “I remember talking about how the main driver for success and productivity in the sector would be unity. That’s something that’s remained a focus for me ever since, and I think that’s come through in the changes we’ve seen in the sector, and in the initiatives that Hort Innovation continues to deliver.”
One of the ‘unity highlights’ Selwyn is most proud of is helping Australian horticulture step onto the international stage in a strongly unified way – particularly at the yearly, high-profile Asia Fruit Logistica trade event.
“When I first attended Asia Fruit Logistica in 2010, Australian producers and individual industries were competing for attention, and the country as a whole was poorly represented,” he said. “We changed that so that the sector came together under one Aussie umbrella, and today we still have the most coordinated and productive area of the whole event.
“This was some of our initial work in the export space, and from there we grew to incorporate a robust market and trade arm into the company, which is now very active and driving good outcomes for the sector.”
On the local stage, Selwyn said in recent times he is proud to have helped bring Australian horticulture together to share learnings through the joint-industry Hort Connections conference and trade show. “Hort Innovation has been a major source of support for establishing this unifying event, delivered through AUSVEG and PMA A-NZ.”
“And bringing horticulture and the Australian Government closer together is another thing. I was Chair of the Council of Rural Research and Development Corporations for four years and Deputy Chair for two. In this time, it was great to be able to raise the profile of horticulture among the primary industries, and keep it front of mind for government and the ministers.”
Another big highlight for Selwyn in his 11-year run is the introduction of Hort Innovation’s Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative.
“I’m really pleased to have worked with former CEO John Lloyd and fellow Director Robert Clarke to develop Hort Frontiers, which sees the company partnering with co-investors to deliver essential and big-impact research outside of the levy system. This is a way for the company to be self-sustaining and to keep delivering research and outcomes for the horticulture sector, independent of levies.”
There have of course been challenges that Selwyn has helped navigate in his journey with the company. “In 2014, the transition from the old Horticulture Australia Limited and the new Hort Innovation was of course a big event for us and for industry. It was challenging, but we pulled it off to create a brand new organisation, owned by growers. And most importantly, we did it in a way that didn’t disrupt investment into R&D or outcomes for these producers,” he said.
But for all the wins and challenges over the years, the one thing that stands out most to Selwyn is the people. “My colleagues on the Board, CEO Matt Brand, and the staff of Hort Innovation who work tirelessly for the sector. The top-notch, world-class delivery partners we work with. The industry bodies and grower organisations that make up the rich tapestry of horticulture. And of course the growers and supply chain participants, who are at the centre of everything we do. You have all made this ride so worthwhile.”