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NZ government backs kiwifruit innovation

Government renews multimillion-dollar partnership with Zespri to develop new kiwifruit products and breeding technologies

NZ government backs kiwifruit innovation

Zespri is drawing closer to the launch of a red kiwifruit variety

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Zespri has welcomed today’s announcement by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)  that it will support a renewed partnership with Zespri to develop new kiwifruit products and breeding technologies.

Under the partnership, MBIE will invest NZ$6.7m together with Zespri’s contribution of NZ$15.7m over the next seven years. The partnership aims to develop at least one novel fresh fruit product type by 2030 and could increase New Zealand export revenue by NZ$200m a year by 2045, according to a media statement from Zespri.

Zespri’s general manger for innovation Carol Ward said the partnership builds on an impressive track record of value creation with MBIE and Plant & Food Research. This includes the development of the SunGold variety, which in 2016/17 alone returned an export value of NZ$686m.  

Zespri and Plant & Food Research established the world’s largest research and development programme into new kiwifruit varieties in 2009, with support from the New Zealand government. The seven-year programme involved investment of NZ$35.7m, supporting cutting edge plant breeding, screening and evaluation technologies. 

“Zespri is delighted with the government’s decision to renew its support for the breeding programme. Our partnership has an outstanding track record in developing new kiwifruit products that consumers love and that create value for our industry and for the broader economy. 

“This extension will apply world-class science with Plant & Food Research to develop new and novel kiwifruit varieties. Through this focus on innovation, we have the potential to generate more value for growers and consumers, while supporting jobs and incomes for families in regional economies.”

Flagging kiwifruit’s role as “a major contributor to the [New Zealand] economy”, Dr Bruce Campbell, COO of Plant & Food Research said the investment recognised the value of research in ensuring the industry’s future success.  

“Our partnership with Zespri has supported the industry’s substantial growth over the past two decades, as well as seen us successfully navigate unknown territory, including the outbreak of Psa in 2010,” said Campbell. “This investment will allow us to continue developing new products targeted to our key markets that will enhance New Zealand’s reputation for premium food exports.”

Zespri CEO highlights quest for new varieties  

In a recent interview with Asiafruit, Zespri CEO Dan Mathieson said the kiwifruit marketer was investing heavily in finding new varieties through the joint breeding programme with Plant & Food and the New Zealand government. “We have 100,000-plus seedlings in the pipeline. It’s one of largest investments of its kind in New Zealand’s primary sector," said Mathieson.

One of the priorities is to produce a sweeter green kiwifruit that is more convenient and ready to eat. “We hope to be able to commercialise a new green in the near future,” he told Asiafruit.

The much-anticipated arrival of a new red kiwifruit is drawing closer too. “We have a number of red varieties coming through the pipeline, and we think it’ll be two or three years before we have one that’s good enough in terms of taste, storage and size to give us the confidence to go out and commercialise it.”


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