As is common, for most research teams, the start of a new year includes strategic planning, ensuring alignment of activities and goals. This was again the case for members of FABI’s DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Plant Health Biotechnology (CPHB) and associated Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP). Similar to similar events of the past, the Management Committee of these programmes met for two days of intensive discussions prior to being met by all students and staff for a report back session.  The events were held on the campus of the University of Pretoria Future Africa Institute on 21 January and was the first time since 2020 that the group was able to gather in-person. This was done safely and adhering to all CoViD-19 protocols.  In welcoming the group, FABI Director Prof. Bernard Slippers reflected on the fact that despite COVID difficulties, the group had achieved great success in the past, both in research outputs and in its relationship with Industry and other partners. With the rapidly changing situation, fuelled by, for example wide-scale vaccination, he expressed optimism for increasing opportunities to rebuild personal connections and to promote the high level of mentorship that is well-known in FABI. Amongst his other comments, Prof. Slippers reminded FABIans that excellence is not just one thing but rather a mindset that infuses everything that one does, and that this must extend beyond research projects and into our personal lives.  Members of the Management Committee shared with the group, their views regarding the strengths of the CPHB and TPCP highlighting some of the advantages and privileges of being part of FABI.  Students and staff participated in break-away sessions and reported back to the larger community sharing their views including their views on actions and activities that will continue to build on the excellence for which FABI is well-known.