New alliance targets fruit cultivar innovation

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fruit, Kiwifruit

A leading European horticultural research institute has launched a
partnership with a New Zealand science organisation in order to
develop new fruit cultivars.

Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentries (IRTA) is hopeful that its relationship with HortResearch will lead to sustainable production systems for commercial application.

HortResearchs fruit gene and compound database, claimed to be the largest in the world, will help IRTA to develop fruits with healthier profiles and the relevant science to demonstrate the benefits on human health.

And its germplasm database provides the firm's 300 scientists with the material to develop new cultivars for fruit species with enhanced health ingredients. It also allows them to screen the hundreds of fruits in the collection to identify those with a high content of a particular nutrient, for example vitamin C or polypenols.

The aim of the partnership is to firmly establish fruit as an ingredient that can help food manufacturers meet consumer demands for specific health benefits.

For example, the firms are already developing plans for collaborating with one or more industry partners on breeding stonefruit with characteristics that can include suitability for hot climate, extended storage-life, integrated disease resistance, high and consistent quality and consumer appeal.

They argue that industry partners can benefit from such research through a high level of certainty, reduced risk and added value generation.

HortResearch has already been involved in a number of consumer-oriented innovations. The ripeSense technology, developed with label producer Jenkins Group, allows consumers to check the ripeness of packaged fruit using a sensor label that picks up aromas from the fruit. It was voted by Time magazine as one of the world's most amazing inventions in 2004.

It has also developed the cultivar for Zespri's Gold Kiwifruit, a yellow-fleshed fruit with a sweeter taste and less hairy skin, that is now sold in Italy and Germany, as well as a kiwifruit with edible skin, and a kiwiberry', designed to appeal to current demands for convenience.

These novel, consumer-friendly fruits are being licenced to companies looking to protect the investment in innovation. Such a move would also give firms the necessary protection to invest in the science for a fruit-based health claim.

Both HortResearch and IRTA have substantial programmes of underpinning research in disease management, fruit and crop quality and plant genetics. The firms believe that a combination of these disciplines will create exciting new and differentiated value-added products.

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