Kiwifruit breeding focus of new Te Puke centre

Its focus will be driving greater innovation within kiwifruit breeding, focusing on creating healthier, better tasting and more sustainability-focused varieties. File photo.

Plant & Food Research and Zespri have today confirmed a new 50/50 joint venture Kiwifruit Breeding Centre has been formally approved and will commence operating from October 1.

The Kiwifruit Breeding Centre will be based in Te Puke, as well as operating out of Kerikeri, Motueka and Mt Albert, and have a presence offshore in selected kiwifruit regions globally.

Its focus will be driving greater innovation within kiwifruit breeding, focusing on creating healthier, better tasting and more sustainability-focused varieties.

The proposal to create the Centre was signposted publicly in December 2020, and follows two years of due diligence.

The Centre has now received approval from both the Boards of Zespri and Plant & Food Research, as well as the shareholding Ministers of Plant & Food Research, which is a New Zealand Government-owned Crown Research Institute.

It will be jointly funded by Plant & Food Research and Zespri, with the organisations sharing royalties from any future commercialised new varieties.

Plant & Food Research CEO David Hughes describes the decision as an exciting step for industry and innovation.

"It’s a natural evolution of the hugely successful 30-year relationship between Zespri and Plant & Food Research which has delivered the world-leading SunGold Kiwifruit variety, alongside Zespri Red. This new venture will carry us further and faster."

Zespri CEO Dan Mathieson says the new venture underpinned the industry’s commitment to accelerate innovation.

"This is an exciting development for our industry and will allow us to extend New Zealand’s position as the world’s leading innovator in kiwifruit.

"The Centre represents our commitment to broaden our efforts exploring promising new varieties within our research pipeline and bring these to our growers and consumers faster."

Zespri and Plant & Food Research also announced that experienced agrifood and innovation sector director Michael Ahie has been appointed to Chair the Kiwifruit Centre Board.

Michael is Chancellor of Massey University and a former Chair of Plant & Food Research.

“This is another milestone moment for the New Zealand kiwifruit industry," says Michael.

"We are going to take our world-leading new cultivar development programme to the next level through the innovation of our people and increased investment by Zespri and Plant & Food Research.

"The Kiwifruit Breeding Centre is fantastic news for the New Zealand kiwifruit industry and everyone who is a part of it."

Michael says the Board expects to announce the appointment of a CEO for the Kiwifruit Breeding Centre in the coming month.

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