Leading Fruit & Vegetable Marketer Named 2005 Agribusiness Emerging Leader of the Year 
28 October 2005

The CEO of internationally-successful Australian fruit and vegetable marketer Perfection Fresh, Michael Simonetta, has been named the inaugural Rabobank Agribusiness Emerging Leader of the Year.


Mr Simonetta - whose innovative approach to horticultural marketing was responsible for the introduction of branded fruit and vegetables to the Australian market - was presented with his award at the 10th annual Rabobank Agribusiness Awards for Excellence ceremony in Melbourne this evening.


Speaking at the presentation, Rabobank deputy chief executive Andrew Davis said the leadership award recognised Mr Simonetta's impressive achievements in the horticultural industry and acknowledged his status as one of the up-and-coming leaders of Australian business.


"Michael Simonetta has been a driving force in taking his family-owned business from a small operation, which was based at Sydney Markets in 1984, to what is today a major marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables both in Australia and overseas," he said.


"Perfection Fresh is now a major supplier of fruit and vegetables to retail chains such as Coles, Woolworths, Franklins and Action, as well as independent retailers, food processors and fast food chains including McDonalds. The business also supplies a number of export markets and has a growing food services business supplying restaurants and caterers directly."


Mr Davis said Mr Simonetta had demonstrated a passion for leadership and innovation in the horticultural industry, with Perfection Fresh introducing more than 20 new horticultural products to the Australian market, including new varieties such as BROCCOLINI™ baby broccoli and THE ORIGINAL™ grape tomato.


"Demonstrating real entrepreneurship, Michael also introduced the concept of 'branded' fruit and vegetables to Australia, using trademarks to protect Perfection Fresh's exclusive marketing rights," Mr Davis said.


The future leaders of Australia's agribusiness were recognised for the first time in this

year's Rabobank Agribusiness Awards for Excellence, with the introduction of the Agribusiness Emerging Leader of the Year award.


"This award is recognising the people who will play such an important role in taking Australia's vitally important agribusiness industry forward into the future," Mr Davis said.


The nation's premier agribusiness awards, the annual Rabobank Agribusiness Awards for Excellence recognise the major contribution of agribusiness to Australia's economy and the wider community.


Run in conjunction with Monash University, award categories honour excellence, innovation and leadership within Australia's agribusiness industries.


Other award winners this year were:

  • Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) Export Award - Lobster Australia

    Lobster Australia has grown dramatically since its founder Theo Kailis pioneered the Western Rock Lobster business more than 50 years ago. The company is now the world's largest exporter of live, spiny lobsters.

  • Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Agribusiness Value-Adding Award - Australian Agricultural Company Limited (AAco)


  • AAco has evolved from a traditional commodity beef producer to a vertically-integrated, value-added beef production and marketing company. The company now controls a fully-integrated supply chain selling direct to export and domestic end users. It has developed the capability to grain-finish cattle through its feedlots, developed brands to sell boxed beef direct to end-users and acquired a portion control processor to sell restaurant cuts direct to institutional clients.

  • Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (AIAST) Technology and Innovation Award - Newport Scientific


  • This manufacturing company provides innovative equipment and novel solutions to problems faced by the world's food, grain and cereal industries. Products include Rapid Visco Analyser™ and doughLAB™. Established in 1985, the company is today recognised as a market leader and innovator, generating 90 per cent of its income from exports.

  • Australian Greenhouse Office Environmental and Energy Management Award - The Yalumba Wine Company


  • The 150-year-old Yalumba Wine Company has developed a program which integrates environmental objectives into relevant business decisions and addresses environmental responsibilities as part of the company's normal operating procedures. This includes the adoption of clean technology and best practice procedures. The company has worked since 1999 to develop an integrated emissions management program which spans the winemaking lifecycle.

  • Australian Farm Journal Rural Enterprise Award - Panda Ranch


  • Panda Ranch specialises in the production, packing and vertically-integrated marketing of high-quality stone fruit, both domestically and internationally. The business is a category manager for Woolworths and Coles and has pioneered sales of stone fruit into Asia and the United Kingdom, where it has a dominant market share.

  • Rimfire Resources Agribusiness Employer of Choice Award - Syngenta Crop Protection


  • This award recognises the efforts of agribusiness organisations displaying exceptional employee relations practices. The global leader in crop protection and third-ranked in the high-value commercial seed market, Syngenta employs some 19,000 people in more than 90 countries worldwide. In Australia and New Zealand, Syngenta has been recognised for using the changing local business environment to focus on developing and recognising its staff.

  • Ernst & Young Risk Management Award - CowBank


  • CowBank is an innovative agribusiness finance company specialising in herd leasing. Historically focussing on the rental of dairy cow herds to dairy farmers, it is now extending into the beef industry. With a lease book growing at a rate of 30 per cent per year, the company has approximately 123 active leases representing a total lease book of some $25 million.


Monash University food & agribusiness programs director Dr Lawrie Dooley said this year's award winners demonstrated innovation and agility to succeed in highly-competitive markets.


"In particular, they have built on Australia's comparative advantage in agricultural production and developed an international competitive advantage in agribusiness through technology, innovation and enterprise," he said.


Members of this year's judging panel for the awards were: Paul Sabine, state manager, Corporate Clients Group, Rabobank; Glenn Collins, state manager, Business Banking, Rabobank; Nigel Crawley, Rimfire Resources; Meg Fricke, Ernst & Young; Patrick Francis, editor, Australian Farm Journal; Allan Jones, executive director, Australian Institute of Agricultural Science & Technology; Doug Robertson, partner, Piper Alderman Lawyers; Margie Thomson, general manager established industries, Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation; Brenda Wardlaw, director, Corporate & Infrastructure Finance Ratings, Standard & Poor's; Michael Wheatley, joint managing director, Spencer Stuart; Anthony McGregor, Greenhouse & Agriculture, Australian Greenhouse Office; Slava Zeman, Manager, Processed Foods Policy Section, Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service; chairman Dr Lawrie Dooley, Monash University.


Rabobank Australia is a part of the international Rabobank Group, the world's leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 100 years' experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank has a AAA credit rating and, in recent years, has twice been awarded the title of the world's safest bank by Global Finance magazine. Rabobank operates in 35 countries, servicing the needs of more than nine million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1900 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia is one of Australia's leading rural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the Australian food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 46 branches throughout Australia.



For further information please contact Denise Shaw, Public Relations Manager (Tel: +61 2 8233 8744) or email on sydney.mediarelations@rabobank.com.

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