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Churchill Fellow, olive grower Peter Birch with the Colossus harvester that he first saw on his study tour in 2001.

Hort Innovation has joined forces with the Churchill Trust to offer three Churchill Fellowships annually, each valued at around $26,000, to give Australians the opportunity to travel overseas to conduct research in their chosen field that isn’t readily available here.

The Fellowships are open to any horticulture industry participants, including olive growers, who have an idea for a research project that can benefit the sector.

Northern New South Wales olive grower Peter Birch travelled to Italy, Israel, Spain and Argentina on a Churchill Fellowship in 2001, to study the latest European pruning and training methods for modern olive growing with emphasis on tree physiology.

“What ultimately came out of the experience was the change to the Colossus harvester. Traditionally, the Europeans had used shaker harvesters, but the machines were not efficient enough to get a large percentage of high quality fruit off the trees,” Mr Birch said.

“In Argentina we saw the Colossus, a massive, coffee-type harvester that vibrated through the trees and could harvest up to 98 per cent of fruit.

“The decision to change harvesters based on the knowledge gained through the Fellowship resulted in a much more efficient harvesting and processing operation.

“The experts we met in Europe and South America were broadminded enough to share their knowledge without keeping secrets, and we still catch up with some of those people today.”

Mr Birch encourages any grower with a project idea to apply for the 2018 Churchill Fellowship from February 1.

“The ability to speak with people at the cutting edge of the industry and work out what they’re thinking and where they’re heading was invaluable,” said Mr Birch.

Important dates for 2018 Fellowships:

  • 1 February 2018 – Applications open
  • 27 April 2018 – Applications close
  • May/June 2018 – Applications reviewed. Short-listed applicants called for interview
  • June/July 2018 – Short-listed applicants attend interview in relevant State or Territory
  • September 2018 – Successful applicants notified
  • February 2019 – Fellowship travel commences.

Churchill Fellowships are funded by the Hort Frontiers Leadership Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from the Winston Churchill Memorial Foundation and contributions from the Australian Government.

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Or contact Sharyn Casey at Hort Innovation on 0414 257 616 or