Donald Coles is the Chairman and Managing Director of Valley Seeds Pty Ltd, Director and Immediate Past President of the Australian Seed Federation and Vice President of the International Seed Federation. Donald holds a Diploma in Farm Management, and a Master of Business Administration.
He combines extensive experience and understanding of Australian agribusiness at senior management level with a hands on understanding of food and fibre production. Donald has worked in the agricultural industry for all his working life and has over 40 years of experience in the seed industry.
Donald is the owner Valley Seeds and son of the founder Jim Coles. Valley Seeds was formed in 1972 and prior to this time the family operated a seed production, beef and sheep farm in north east Victoria.
Donald was also founder of Access Genetics Pty Ltd. Access Genetics specialized in the breeding and evaluation of new varieties in cereal grain and other broad acre cropping species. Access Genetics was sold to a wholly owned subsidiary of Nufarm Ltd, Nugrain Pty Ltd in late 2005 after a period of joint equity ownership. Nugrain was a Nufarm initiated consortium that also involved substantial shareholding by Landmark, Graincorp, Ausbulk and CBH until 2005.
Key areas of expertise
Extensive Management Experience in Agricultural Business
Both Valley Seeds Pty. Ltd. and Access Genetics had a special emphasis on end user grain and seed quality and associated supply chain issues. These companies have various import and export businesses that require a sound understanding of international trade and quarantine issues.
While MD of Access Genetics, Donald managed the operations of the company during the period where Nugrain was a shareholder. Donald successfully managed the breeding operation within a heavily regulated supply chain with numerous scientific disciplines impacting on almost every aspect of the company operations.
Retailing and Retail Supply
Donald has hands on retail experience through his company Valley Seeds, which has been supplying both rural retail and chain stores for over 40 years. Home garden lawn seed and other products were supplied to most major chains including Woolworths and Coles supermarkets, Bunnings and other hardware chains. Grain and pasture seed have also been supplied to most rural retail stores during this period.
Supply Chain Management and Quality Assurance Systems
As the maintainer of several varieties of open pollinated plant species including Brassica species, wheat, forage and turf grasses, Donald has extensive experience and expertise in supply chain management of grain and seed.
The seed companies that he has managed produced varieties under internationally recognised QA systems and supply all major rural retailers. Donald has represented the Australian Seed Federation (ASF) on many committees that relate to these QA systems as follows:
- Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation – Working Party to Cost Seed Certification Services December 1993
- Grains Council of Australia (GCA) – Industry Steering Committee on Seed Certification, March 1994
- GCA, ASF – Seed Certification Progression Task Force, 1995.
- Director of the Australian Seed Authority – An industry organisation that manages designated authority responsibilities for the Australian Government for OECD certification and the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA).
- Various Grains Research and Development Corporation and Australian Wheat Board International committees involving wheat quality, grain supply chain and genetically modified organism (GMO) segregation.
Plant Species Development
Donald has been directly involved in breeding new plant varieties. He also has extensive experience in the development, maintenance and auditing of trial protocols for forage and cereals. He has been a member of the following committees which were specifically created for this purpose:
- ASF Member on Australian Pasture Plant Evaluation Committee (APPEC) 1999.
- Representative for Seed Merchants Association of Victoria Ltd., on the Victorian Pasture Variety Committee (Victorian Herbage Plant Liaison Committee) from 1981 to 1999.
- Representative for ASF, on the Tasmanian Pastures and Field Crop Advisory Committee from 1993 to 1996.
Donald was also the author of the trial protocols for the Horticultural Research & Development Corporation project TU-97005 Australian Turf Grass Evaluation Program (AUSTEP). Development of the trial protocols required a sound knowledge of plant pathology and botany.
Donald was the chairman of the fundraising committee of the community based Kellock aged care facility at Alexandra, Victoria. Over a period of 5 years a large percentage of a $5 Million rebuilding project was raised by his committee.
Donald has also been involved in numerous other community support and charitable committees in the Shire of Murrindindi including the Men’s Health Committee after the devastating 2009 Marysville fires and the Murrindindi Shire 2011 Australia Day awards selection committee.
Other industry positions
- Director and Immediate Past President of the Australian Seed Federation Ltd (ASF) from May 2012 to present.
- Director of the International Seed Federation (ISF) from May 2014 to present.
- Vice-President of the Australian Seed Federation Ltd. from 2011 to May 2012 and 1994 to 1997 and a Director from 1988 to 1997.
- Director of the Australian Seed Authority from 2010 to present.
- Founding Chairman of the ASF Biotechnology (GMO) Committee 2000 to 2006. This committee has been an active participant in most grain industry segregation, coexistence and other GMO regulation issues since the inception of the federal government Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR)
- Appointed to the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) – Community Consultative Committee by the Federal Minister of Health and Ageing. (2002 to 2007)
- Founding Chairman of the Plant Breeders and Proprietary Marketers Group – ASF. This position incorporated responsibilities for representing ASF members on matters relating to Plant Breeders Rights and other forms of Intellectual Property Rights.
- Chairman of Winning Bid Committee – ‘Melbourne for the International Seed Industry Congress (F.I.S.)’ held in 1999.
- Chairman of Convention Committee, S.I.A.A. Biennial Convention, 1994.
- Vice-Chairman of South Eastern Region of ASF from 1987 to 1989.
- Secretary and Treasurer – Victorian Seed Merchants Association Ltd., 1985-87.
“Pasture Breakthroughs” Australian Farm Management Society 5th Annual Conference 1988.
“The Climate for Plant Improvement” Intellectual Property for Plants – National Workshop, Patents and P.B.R. Office, Canberra, July 1989
“Proprietary Rights for Plants in the Seed Trade” S.I.A.A. 15th Biennial Convention
“Turf Tall Fescue – Under Used and Under Managed” Royal Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation, Vol. 29, No.2, 1993.
“Seed Production and Turfgrass Breeding” Royal Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation Conference, 1990
“Merit Testing – the final exam for breeders”. N.Z. Journal of Agricultural Research 1994, Vol. 37: 449-453.
“PBR: A chance or a change – A user perspective”: ACIPA – Plant Breeders Rights Symposium, Canberra, June 2007
“Funding Plant Breeding in Australia – A Review of End Point Royalties and Future Funding Requirements” Canadian Seed Trade Association – Summer Convention July 2007, Ottawa. Key Note speaker.