Australian apple industry mourns the passing of renowned Tasmanian grower

Ian Smith

Ian Smith

Image: Fred and Hannah

Ian Smith, the driving force behind R&R Smith, passed away recently, leaving behind a legacy spanning six decades in the Australian apple industry.

Honoured with the APAL Lifetime Achievement award in 2020, Ian’s enduring commitment to learning was the motivation behind his incredible journey, the family orchard in the Huon Valley, R&R Smith, producing high-quality apples for over 130 years.

At just 21 years of age, Ian took the reins of the family orchard after the untimely passing of his father, Ron Smith. With passion and determination, he forged an extraordinary life and career in the apple-growing industry, primarily at ‘The Grove’ – the heart and soul of R&R Smith.

Ian’s influence extended far beyond his own orchard. Through his contributions to research and development and his role as the chairman of the Australian Research and Development Committee (ARDC) and its Tasmanian counterpart, the Industry Advisory Committee (IAC), Ian played a pivotal role in advancing the apple industry in both Tasmania and Australia.

Ian’s journey began in an era when he readily admitted that he “didn’t really know what [he] was doing”. In his early days, the orchard focused on growing what he fondly referred to as “red rocks and green rocks”. However, this humility, humour and an unwavering commitment to learning and improvement set the foundation for his success.

Facing industry challenges head on, Ian adapted to changing times. He became one of the pioneers in identifying and expanding to South-East Asian markets in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he was among the first to embrace cool storage technology, a revolutionary step that would extend the marketing period for apples. Later, in the 1990s, Ian, alongside his son Andrew, led the transformation of the family farm into a fully organic operation, all while ensuring quality apples year round.

Ian’s forward thinking extended to the industry’s future, emphasising the need for technological and mechanical advancements to meet evolving demands. He recognised that the next generation’s skills would be different, involving electronic and cold system management.

Today, R&R Smith remains a thriving, innovative family venture, thanks to Ian’s unwavering involvement. After more than half a century of dedication to the industry and passion for the science of apple growing, Ian once reflected, saying, “My family has been involved in growing apples for 130 years, and I’m pretty proud of what we’ve done. It’s provided a nice way of life for me and my family and provided us with an opportunity for a worthwhile pursuit during our life.”

Ian’s legacy of continuous learning, adaptability and dedication will forever serve as an inspiration for current and future generations of apple growers.

“From car racing and sailing to his love of sport and fruit growing, Ian showed a great passion and desire to fully understand everything he was involved in,” said Phil Turnbull, chief executive of APAL.

“A deep thinker, Ian was inquisitive, determined and a trailblazer of the industry in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. An icon of the Australian apple industry, Ian will be remembered for the progress he led for the greater industry and the enduring lessons he leaves behind,” continued Phil.

Ian Smith, a legend of the Australian apple industry, will be remembered and celebrated for years to come. Vale Ian Smith.

This article was first published by APAL