Kiwifruit breeding centre to begin operating

Zespri Chief executive Dan Mathieson and Plant & Food Research CEO David Hughes.

Plant and Food Research and Zespri confirmed on August 12 that a new 50/50 joint venture Kiwifruit Breeding Centre has been formally approved and will commence operating from October 1 this year.

The 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 and Food Research, as well as the shareholding Ministers of Plant and Food Research, which is a government-owned Crown Research Institute.

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

Plant and Food Research chief executive David Hughes says the decision is an exciting step for industry and innovation.

“It’s a natural evolution of the hugely successful 30-year relationship between Zespri and Plant and Food Research,” says David, “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,” says Dan.

“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 and Food Research also announced that experienced agrifood and innovation sector director Michael Ahie has been appointed to chair the Kiwifruit Centre Board. He is Chancellor of Massey University and a former chair of Plant and Food Research.

Michael says this is another milestone moment for the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.

“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 and Food Research,” says Michael.

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

“The board expects to announce the appointment of a CEO for the Kiwifruit Breeding Centre in the coming month.”


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