Our Board & Committees

The ABA Board is supported by specialist committees, each with their own terms of reference.

Board of Directors

Peter Hayes


Peter was appointed as the ABA independent Chairperson in February 2020. Peter has extensive experience across education and training, R&D investment and management, viticultural operations, the irrigation sector and government and industry affairs. Peter operates as an independent Wine Industry Strategist and Advisor with activity in Australia, India and the UK. He is also Business Editor of the International Journal of Wine Economics and Policy.

Peter Cavallaro

Adelaide Region Grower Representative

Peter holds a Diploma in Agriculture and has been involved in the Almond Industry since 1973, when the family bought an almond orchard at Angle Vale. He has also been involved in the cut flower industry where growing and marketing were his main responsibilities and he was a director of the Adelaide Flower Market. In 1999 Peter developed an almond orchard with the family at Angle Vale and in 2002 seeing the scope of the industry he became involved in developing an almond orchard at Walker Flat of which he is now General Manager. Peter is a Chairman of the Production Committee and a member of the Plant Improvement Committee.

Stephen Beckwith

Swan Region Grower Representative

Stephen holds a Bachelor of Business Degree and is currently the General Manager of Indian Ocean Farms, which includes three properties in Western Australia. Stephen joined the almond industry in 2019 after spending six years with the Berry Division of the Costa Group, as Regional Manager Tasmania and Regional Manager Western Australia. Prior to this Stephen was Operations Manager of the Sumich Olive Oil Division in Western Australia for 10 years. Stephen is a past Chairman, Treasurer and Director of two local Community Banks and has been involved with numerous industry and community groups, including Industry Advisory Committees. Stephen is a member of the ABA Production Committee, Conference Committee, a proxy member of the Audit Committee and the current Chair of the ABA Chemical Taskforce.

Neale Bennett

Sunraysia Region Grower Representative

Neale has been involved with almonds since converting his family farm from vines in 1992. Neale also operates a contract almond harvesting business, Cowanna Harvesting. Neale has filled the roles of Chairman and Sunraysia Region Grower Representative on the ABA Board as well as Secretary, Treasurer and Chairman of the Sunraysia region of the Australian Almond Growers’ Association (AAGA). Neale’s committee positions include Chair of both the Remuneration Committee and Conference Committees and represents the ABA at Horticulture Innovation Australia.

James Callipari

Riverina Region Grower Representative

James completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) degree, graduating in 2003 before returning to the family farming business in a formal capacity. He has extensive experience in all aspects of the production of a wide range of fruits, vegetables and grains, both irrigated and dryland. James commenced his involvement in the Australian Almond Industry with the development of an almond orchard in the Riverina region during 2006 where his past farming experience proved invaluable. In 2013, James was the recipient of the Phil Watters Award which recognises excellence and service to the Australian Almond Industry.

Darren Minter

Sunraysia Region Grower Representative

Darren is Managing Director of Minter Magic, a large almond, asparagus and citrus property situated in lraak, Victoria. Darren is a major shareholder in the Red Cliffs Almond Growers Co-op, started in 1985. He is also member of the Australian Asparagus Council and a member of Citrus Australia. Darren holds a Diploma of Production Horticulture and was the VFF Victorian Apprentice of the year in 1988 (Fruit Section). Darren is a member of the Plant Improvement, Water, and Conference Committees.

Brendan Sidhu

Riverland Region Grower Representative

Brendan Sidhu is CEO of Century Orchards, a large almond orchard based in the Riverland, South Australia and Managing Director of Laragon Almond Processors based at Lindsay Point in Victoria. Brendan has been involved in the Australian almond industry since 1983, holding positions as both Secretary and Chair of the Riverland region of the Australian Almond Growers’ Association (AAGA). In 2007, Brendan was appointed to the ABA Board, holding the position of Chairman from 2009 – 2012. He is the Chair of the Market Development and Almond Centre of Excellence Committees and is a member of the Remuneration, and Conference Committees. Brendan is Chair of the Australian Nut Industry Council (ANIC). He is a member of Hort Innovation’s Almond Strategic Industry Advisory Panel. Brendan holds an Advanced Diploma in Horticulture and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Luke Stoeckel

Riverland Region Grower Representative

Luke grew up on his family’s almond and broadacre farm near Renmark in South Australia and is now Managing Director of Cannonball Almonds. He oversees the operations and development of the Almond and Broadacre enterprises at Bunyip Reach. In 2009 Luke completed a Bachelor of Science (Petroleum Geology) degree from Adelaide University and worked internationally as an Engineer in the Oil Industry before returning home in 2014. Since returning home Luke has developed Cannonball Almonds which is planted with 75% Australian National Almond Breeding Program varieties. Luke also sits on the South Australian Murray Irrigators Committee.

Daisy Toscan

Riverina Grower Representative

Daisy is part of the team at Cavaso Farming at Darlington Point where they grow cotton, wheat, prunes, almonds and run beef cattle. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) and grew up on a small grazing property at Cowra. Daisy was appointed to the ABA board in late 2023, after a second Riverina grower representative position was created due to the growth in almond production in the region.

Nigel Carey

Marketing Representative

Nigel is CEO of Nut Producers Australia. Having previously been General Manager Operations with responsibility for managing NPA’s Export Sales and Marketing activities and Group Operations spanning both almonds and pistachios. He has been with NPA for 12 years, following an extensive Agri marketing, operations and management career in Tasmania. Nigel’s qualifications include an MBA and GAICD.

Damien Houlahan

Marketing Representative

Damien is the Executive General Manager of Olam Orchards Australia. Damien has the responsibility of overseeing almond operations for Olam in Australia. This has included building a team to manage the orchards exclusively from 2012, the building of the new almond processing facility and the global marketing of Olam almonds from the Australian orchards. In addition to this role in Australia Damien is also a member of the Olam International Edible Nuts Management Committee which includes the global cashew and peanut businesses. Damien is a member of the Market Development, Audit, Remuneration, and Conference Committees.

Paul Stewart

Marketing Representative

Paul Stewart is Group Sales and Marketing Manager of Almondco Australia Ltd where he has responsibility for the strategic direction of the sales team and sale
of Almondco’s annual intake. Paul joined Almondco in January 2022 and has over 40 years’ experience in Horticultural and Agribusiness organisations, primarily
based in SA’s Riverland region. Beginning his career in Finance and Administration with Berri Fruit Juices, which then restructured into Berrivale Orchards Ltd, he moved into Operations. He later performed the Group Operations role for Riverland Fruit Co-op and then became CEO of Sunnyland Fruits Pty Ltd. A Fellow of the Institute of Public Accountants he has served on the board of Sunbeam Foods.


Plant Improvement Committee

The Plant Improvement Committee is the industry reference group for the almond breeding and evaluation program. It provides guidance on the desired characteristics of new varieties, assists the establishment of trial sites and with the assessment of results. It also provides input into the decisions of which selections are released as commercial varieties and the conditions of their commercialisation. The committee guides the ABA’s high health status budwood program that ensures nurseries have access to pathogen tested material to produce superior nursery trees that enhance orchard establishment. 

Water Committee

The Water Committee drafts industry policy for the ABA Board to consider and endorse. The committee also develops strategic actions to bring about positive change to the water market and other government policy that impacts on the pricing, availability and deliverability to almond and other irrigators whilst being mindful of the need for a healthy riverine system. The committee provides input into submissions prepared by the ABA. These submissions where possible seek to offer solutions to issues of concern. The ABA acts to gather the support of other Peak Industry Bodies to support our submissions.

Production Committee

The Almond Production Committee provides a forum to discuss all matters related to almond production to improve yields and input efficiency, address issues of supply surety and cost. The committee considers changes to production systems and provides input on best practices. The extension program of the ABA industry development staff is guided by the committee that also acts as the industry reference group for some production related research and development projects. It has a role in identifying risks for growers and gaps in the knowledge and technologies needed to enhance the production of almonds in Australia. This assists in the development of research priorities for the industry. These broad areas of responsibility are assisted by the specialist committees covering plant improvement, pollination, water and the experimental and demonstration orchard.

Processing Committee

The Processing Committee provides a whole of industry approach to improving product quality, hulling and shelling more cost efficiently to meet required quality specifications, and maintaining Australia’s high product integrity reputation through providing input on food safety and quality issues. 

Pollination Committee

The Pollination Committee deals with the surety and cost of pollination services that are a necessary element of almond production. The growth of the almond industry has placed increasing demand on the available beehives in Eastern Australia. The committee is working to address any impediments to apiarists bringing their hives to almond orchards. The ABA supports the efforts of the beekeeping associations to have access to the floral resources on public lands. In addition, the ABA provides financial support to the biosecurity programs to keep bees safe from exotic pests. The committee is also investigating ways that the health of hives can be assured so that almond producers are getting hives capable of delivering a strong pollination result.

Chemical Committee

The Chemical Committee monitors the chemicals available to Australian almond production and identifies chemicals with the potential to expand the options for chemical rotation, efficacy and efficiency and pursue registration through APVMA. The committee will develop appropriate measures for chemical application to ensure MRL compliance in the domestic and export markets for consideration by the ABA Board. The Taskforce will comprise growers, technical staff from processors, senior technical people from major agrochemical companies and agronomists from retailers. Representatives from government bodies will be co-opted for guidance on issues as required. 

Market Development Committee

The Almond Market Development Committee analyses the domestic and global almond market, approves the activities that make up the marketing program, monitors the implementation of these promotions and trade events and evaluates the results. This committee acts as an industry reference group for marketing related research and development projects funded by grower levies and matched by the Commonwealth. The committee membership is drawn from the large industry marketers and members bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the broad range of marketing matters considered in building demand and maintaining market access for Australian almonds both domestically and on export markets.

Almond Centre Committee

The Almond Centre Committee was established to guide the development of the Almond Centre of Excellence that has at its heart a sixty-hectare experimental and demonstration orchard that is the home of the industry’s R&D activities. The Almond Centre has been established with the generous funding support of the South Australian and Commonwealth governments and the assistance of Hort Innovation. The committee also provides input into best production practices and technologies showcased on the orchard. The facility provides the opportunity to push the boundaries in search of significant developments to production systems. The Centre is a collaboration between industry, researchers and commercial suppliers.

Conference and R&D Forum Committees

The Conference and Forum Committees provide advice on the Conference and R&D Forum themes, venue, dates, schedule, presentation topics, presenters, master of ceremonies, sponsors and monitor event finances. The committee members input ensures the events provide a balance of learning and social networking.

Audit Committee

The Audit Committee monitors the ABA’s financial position and systems, risk and statutory/regulatory compliance including the external audit and annual budget processes. The committee reviews all ABA expenditure, accounts receivable and payable, and other elements of the extensive financial reporting that is provided to the Board meetings. The committee members also decide on the investment options available for the ABA’s cash reserves. The members also involved in the approval of large financial transactions.