2017 Speakers

Peter FitzSimmons

Peter FitzSimons is a well-respected columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and Sun-Herald, television presenter on Fox Sports, speaks four languages, has played rugby for Australia, co-hosted radio shows with Mike Carlton and Doug Mulray, interviewed famous people around the globe from George Bush to Diego Maradona and written eighteen best-selling books.

He is the biographer not only of World Cup winning Wallaby captains, Nick Farr-Jones and John Eales, but also former Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, war heroine Nancy Wake and magazine Queen, Nene King. In 2001 he was Australia’s biggest selling non-fiction author, and duplicated that feat in 2004, with his book on Kokoda.


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Peter Kuruvita


After 3 decades as an award-winning chef and restaurateur, Peter has diversified his career to encompass the roles of TV presenter, author, industry speaker and restaurant consultant.

Chef and Restaurateur Peter is well known for his time at Sydney’s iconic Flying Fish Restaurant & Bar which he opened in 2004, and successfully led the kitchen team as Executive Chef for 8 years. In 2008, Peter’s love of the Pacific and passion for seafood led to the opening and continued success of Flying Fish at Sheraton Fiji Resort. 2016 will see the opening of Peter’s latest Pacific venture with Aggie Grey’s by Peter Kuruvita in the newly renovated and historical Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalows in picturesque Apia, Samoa.

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Dr Frédéric Bakry

After graduating in 1982 from Paris XI University, the country’s incubator of plant breeders, CIRAD offered to F. Bakry a PhD scholarship to apply tissue culture biotechnologies to bananas as a way of bypassing the crop’s sterility. After its PhD, Bakry went to Brazil for two years to work in partnership with EMBRAPA on the Brazilian banana improvement program. In 1987, he went to Guadeloupe to the research station of Neufchâteau , where he set up the French banana breeding program. By combining the crossbreeding and the development of cellular and molecular biotechnologies, he designed reconstructive breeding strategies aiming to mimic the natural paths of domestication of banana, but incorporating sources of disease resistance in the newly selected varieties.

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Professor Randy Ploetz


Professor Ploetz is a world authority on tropical plant diseases, especially those of tropical fruit. He has edited four books and written several hundred book chapters, journal articles and other technical publications. He has travelled to over 60 countries to research these problems, advise projects, stakeholders and students, and to speak at international conferences. He is interviewed frequently by national and international television, radio, online and print media on the impact and status of these problems, especially on the threat posed by tropical race 4 (which he discovered in Taiwan in 1989).

Randy has played an active, international role in the American Phytopathological Society (APS), serving as a board member and Director of the APS Office of International Programs, and as an APS representative for the International Society of Plant Pathology. He is a former Editor-in-Chief of APS Press and chair of the APS Publications Board. He received the APS Excellence in International Service Award in 2008, the University of Florida Research Foundation award in 2011, and the APS Fellow Award in 2016.

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Dennis Hoiberg


Dennis Hoiberg is an organisational consultant with more than 30 years experience working with individuals, teams and businesses to achieve excellence and high performance.

His main area of consulting expertise is organisational change and effectiveness, bringing with him a practical and pragmatic style – one of his main acknowledged strengths. Dennis’ unique insight into human psychology provides clients with a highly effective mechanism to understand, motivate and retain their networks

Dennis has developed programs to accelerate the personal and professional development of individuals, including mentoring, coaching and has most recently developed a suite of retreats to provide guests with a focused environment for reflection and action.

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Michael McQueen


Michael understands what it takes to thrive in a rapidly evolving world.

Widely recognised for having his finger on the pulse of business and culture, he has helped some of the world’s best-known brands navigate change and stay ahead of the curve. As a leading specialist in demographic shifts, change management and future trends, Michael features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio and has written four bestselling books.

In 2015, Michael was named Australia’s Keynote Speaker of the Year and was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame.

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Rose Herceg

Rose Herceg has built a career as one of Australia’s most respected social futurists. Rose’s first business, Pophouse launched in 1998, became known as Australia’s best regarded company for innovation, social trends and business strategy. BRW Magazine named Rose the number one innovative thinker in the country and Pophouse the country’s best place to go for new business models and emerging trends data. In 2006, Rose sold her company to the STW Group.

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Dr Allan Dale

Allan Dale is a Professor of Tropical Regional Development at The Cairns Institute, James Cook University and an Honorary Professorial Research Fellow with Charles Darwin University’s Northern Institute. He is the Chair of Regional Development Australia Far North Queensland and Torres Strait Inc. Allan has a strong interest in societal governance, with a focus across…

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Rob and Sarah Cook

There would be few more with tenacity, courage and resilience than fourth generation cattleman, Rob Cook.

Rob and Sarah along with their sons Braxton and Lawson lived and worked on Suplejack Downs Station in the remote Tanami Desert (NT) The young families lives changed forever when Rob was left a quadriplegic after a horrific helicopter crash whilst mustering cattle on the family property. Not one to live life lying down, Rob has embarked on some amazing journeys such as receiving a prestigious Nuffield scholarship and becoming the first man to cross the treacherous Tanami desert in his wheelchair. Rob believes disability need never hold you back. Through the use of technology and innovation, the couple own and operate their own cattle Breeding And fattening operation Supplying their own butcher shop in Queensland.

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Lisa Cork

Part strategist and part trend setter, Lisa Cork heads up Fresh Produce Marketing, a boutique global marketing agency that helps fresh produce clients create smart strategies and engaging brands that sell produce. Known for her passion and tireless energy, Lisa cares deeply about her clients and their business goals. Her in-depth understanding of the fresh produce industry and trends impacting the industry enable her to see opportunities others don’t see, resulting in innovative strategies and ideas that make a real difference to her client’s the bottom line.

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Elisa King

Over 20 years working with Warner Music, Sony Pictures and now Horticulture Innovation Australia Elisa’s passion has led her to build successful brands and products through marketing, research and understanding the consumer. Elisa has demonstrated great ability to understand the needs of all stakeholders along the supply chain and develop solutions which see all parties work together to build relationships & maximise benefits in the fruit industry.

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Tony Pattison

Tony Pattison is the Principal Nematologist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries based at South Johnstone in north Queensland. Tony has been working on disease suppressive cropping systems for bananas for the past 23 years, firstly on managing plant-parasitic nematodes to reduce the reliance on chemical nematicides. More recently he has been involved in projects to develop suppressive cropping systems to Fusarium wilt of bananas.

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Andre Drenth

Graduated with MSc. in Plant Breeding from Wageningen Agricultural University, The Netherlands in 1990 and a PhD in Plant Pathology from Wageningen and Cornell University USA in 1994. Now Professor of Plant Pathology, Centre for Plant Science, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food innovation. The University of Queensland, Australia.

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Warwick Hope

Warwick Hope is the Category Manager responsible for bananas for Woolworths Supermarkets, Australia’s largest supermarket chain.
Warwick is responsible for all strategic and day to day activities for the category. Warwick and the Fresh Produce team at Woolworths are passionate about achieving their strategy ‘Inspiring Australians to eat more fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables’.

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Sarah McKee

Sarah McKee is an Associate Director at Nielsen and has 9+ years’ experience within the FMCG sector across Australia & New Zealand. This has covered retailer category management, brand and sales management with an iconic NZ company and four years of client service with Nielsen Australia. At Nielsen Sarah has managed a broad portfolio of…

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Anh Do


Anh Do will entertain us at the Banana Ball on Friday, 23 June. About Anh: Born in Vietnam in 1977, Anh’s family fled the country in 1980, landing in Australia after a harrowing journey. Since then, Anh has made a name for himself in his new country, starting his career at the age of 14…

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Paula Doran

 Congress MC Paula Doran has been a journalist, editor, publisher, casting agent and now Communications Manager for the ABGC. In a career spanning 24 years she has specialized in rural issues for the bulk of her career. Her highlights include time as a volunteer in East Timor where she led the reconstruction of a radio…

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