GRAINGROWERS Limited (GGL) chief executive Dave McKeon (picured) said he was happy to be leaving the organisation in a stronger position than when he found it, when he finishes up the role in the coming weeks.
Joining GGL as the organisation's general manager (policy and innovation) in February 2015, he became GGL's joint chief executive in June 2017 before becoming the sole chief executive in August 2018.
Over those seven years, Mr McKeon said he had seen the organisation completely evolve.
"I've always taken the view that Australian grain farmers are modern, innovative and progressive and so as a representative organisation (RO) for the industry, I made it my focus for us to transition so that we reflect those same characteristics of farmers today," Mr McKeon said.
"Now that the organisation has an improved financial position and a strong legitimacy with government and decision makers, the opportunity has arisen for me to step out and pursue a new challenge.
"But I've had a really rewarding and enjoyable time at GrainGrowers."
While Mr McKeon did not reveal what his next move would be, he said he planned to "continue contributing" to the agricultural industry, but in the interim hoped to take a few months off.
The announcement of his shock departure came about a week before GGL's annual general meeting, held in Albury, on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, last week.
GrainGrowers chairman Brett Hosking, who was re-elected as a southern region director along with Julia Hausler, said he was sad to see Mr McKeon go, but also excited by the opportunities it presented.
"He transformed the organisation from what it was six years ago when I joined the board - it is a completely different organisation today and that's largely due to Dave and his ability to create transformational change through his leadership," Mr Hosking said.
"From what I understand he is already a well sought after candidate for his next adventure.
"We are now engaging a firm that will undergo a competitive and professional search process for our next chief executive."
GGL's AGM saw the passing of several resolutions aimed at updating and modernising the organisation's constitution.
Some of these key changes included a new clause to limit the validity of standing proxy appointments to a period of two years, to ensure proxies accurately represented the interests and views of members on an ongoing basis.
There was also a change for the GrainGrowers National Policy Group (NPG) where, rather than only being permitted to serve two consecutive terms of three years, NPG members may serve up to three consecutive terms of three years, to allow for "longer term engagement and retention of corporate knowledge, as well as alignment with director terms".
Mr Hosking said the removal of the organisation's standing proxies had been a contentious issue for a long time.
"There were not a lot of standing proxies out there, but the fact that they are no longer part of the organisation's governance means that growers can have more confidence in their ability to have a say than they did previously - and they had a lot of say previously," he said.
About 100 growers attended the AGM dinner which included a keynote address by the founder and director of Beechworth Honey Group, Jodie Goldsworthy.
She provided the audience with a personal and frank account of the impact of her businesses' traumatic biosecurity experience with varroa mites, a major honeybee parasite.
"They are probably one of the biggest honey producers in Australia and also they had a really bad experience with braula fly only a couple of weeks ago, where they had 2000 hives destroyed by the Victorian government," Mr Hosking said.
"For her to be able to talk about that experience and also see positive coming out of it - she had everyone on the edge of their seats."
The AGM is after Western Australia's State farming organisations (SFOs) called for there to be one peak national representative body for the grains sector earlier this month.
The Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA (PGA), the WA Grains Group (WAGG) and WAFarmers Grains Council were united in the view that they wanted to see GGL and Grain Producers Australia (GPA) work together to reach that outcome.
GGL and GPA were scheduled to hold a consultative meeting in Adelaide yesterday as part of their joint RO role for the grains industry, where both bodies are responsible for the legislative oversight of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
"It's a regular process for us, to meet and say what's our combined strategy so we can present a united front to GRDC to achieve the best outcomes for growers," Mr Hosking said.
GPA's chief executive Colin Bettles also attended GGL's AGM.