INSIGHT

Young orchardist is pick of the bunch

GOULBURN Valley orchardist Mitchell McNab is a driven, hard-working young farmer who strives for excellence and this year, has earnt the title of 2023 Young Farmer of the Year, sponsored by McDonald's Australia.

 Mitchell McNab has earned the title of 2023 Young Farmer of the Year, sponsored by McDonald’s Australia.

Mitchell McNab has earned the title of 2023 Young Farmer of the Year, sponsored by McDonald’s Australia.

A fifth-generation grower, Mitchell manages his family's century-old orchard in Ardmona, Victoria, where together with his parents, he grows more than 60 hectares of apples, pears, and plums.

With an eye on long-term viability within the horticulture industry, Mitchell is always looking at new varieties and improved systems to develop the best quality produce and return per hectare. Part of those considerations is the inclusion of agtech on-farm, and the development of high-density plantings to suit the climate and conditions across different fruit varieties.

"Integrating technology and new growing systems is critical to the long-term prosperity of our family orchard," Mitchell said.

"I am looking at machinery and processes to suit high density planting, such as pruning and picking platforms, and narrow vehicles to access planting areas.

"The aim of implementing high density planting is to develop a system that will double the tonnage per hectare. We currently produce about 2800 tonnes of fruit annually for domestic and export markets so the potential to increase that is exciting."

Ben White, Kondinin Group's General Manager of Research, was impressed with Mitchell's consideration of progressive management practices and introduction of agtech to support efficient farming.

"Young farmers seem to have their eyes wide open when it comes to the potential of introducing agtech on farm and aren't afraid to break the bounds of traditional growing strategies," Ben said.

"Mitchell's goal is clearly the survival and longevity of the orchard and sustaining profitability, while supporting industry growth, and he has the right attitude to make that a reality."

Mitchell's focus has recently turned to robotics.

"Robotics could play a significant role in the future of horticulture, from the plantings right through to the packing sheds," Mitchell said.

"With labour an increasing issue in rural and regional areas, our industry needs to look at options that can support growth and sustainability, and robotics could be it."

As the largest quick service restaurant group in Australia, McDonald's has a long history of supporting the local agricultural industry and investing in the future leaders of tomorrow. Every year, McDonald's sources more than 200 million kilos of produce from thousands of Australian farmers, helping it serve up a locally sourced, homegrown menu to customers.

Thomas Mahony, Senior Director of Supply Chain, McDonald's Australia, said "We are proud to present this award to Mitchell and recognise his achievements and contribution to the future of the Australian horticultural industry.

"Mitchell and other young farmers across Australia are pushing boundaries and driving the industry forward with their passionate, creative and innovative approach to farming practices and business management.

"As a major purchaser of Aussie produce, we are committed to continuing to invest in the local agricultural industry and support the next generation of farmers across Australia."

Mitchell is actively engaged and involved with the fruit growing industry and is chairperson of Fruit Growers Victoria Ltd - an advocacy group for growers, packers and exporting businesses across the North-East, Central and Southern growing regions of Victoria. He is generous with his knowledge and time towards other growers and committees and has featured on several podcasts that assist fruit growers across Australia and around the world.

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