Hort Innovation Churchill Fellow Michael Silm shares his Fellowship experience
1 Sep 2019
What was your Churchill Fellowship topic?
I travelled for 3 months in 1990 (a long time ago!) with a round the world ticket to research sweet persimmon culture and marketing and quality assurance systems.
Why did you apply for a Churchill Fellowship?
The sweet persimmon industry was just in its infancy in Australia and I could see great potential for our family business. I spent a lot of time in Japan talking with growers and packers to understand the detailed growing methods.
How did the Churchill Fellowship benefit you as a grower?
It benefited our family business greatly. We planted a large orchard of persimmons the year after my fellowship and since then have planted another 3 blocks of different varieties of persimmons. I left the family business in 1995 to pursue and focus on an export business. My brother now owns and runs the family business and these persimmons are a very important part of his livelihood.
How did the knowledge gained on your Churchill Fellowship benefit the wider persimmon industry?
I became involved in a nation-wide export group of persimmon growers called APEC (Australian Persimmon Export Co) and this was very successful in creating export markets within South East Asia.
Any major achievements or milestones reached since going on your Fellowship?
After the Fellowship, in 1990, I worked within the family business for the next 4 years until 1995, then started my own company as a joint venture with a Taiwanese fruit importer. This business developed into one of the largest exporters of stone fruit out of Australia and in 2007 I sold it to a multinational company.
I believe the Churchill Fellowship helped me realise how much potential Australian horticulture had and it also showed me what a big, wide world was out there and the huge potential that lay ahead of me.
What is next for you?
Export of Australian horticultural produce is my career. I am now working for a multinational exporter of fruit and vegetables with offices in the USA, South Africa, Chile, Mexico and Australia.
Travel overseas to grow your horticulture expertise - three Churchill Fellowships sponsored by Hort Innovation Australia will be offered for award in 2020.