Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Ron Beatson has been awarded the Morton Coutts Trophy.
The centre will be based in Te Puke, but will also operate out of Kerikeri, Motueka and Mt Albert in Auckland, and have a presence offshore in selected kiwifruit regions. Its focus will be driving greater innovation within kiwifruit breeding, focusing on creating healthier, better tasting and more sustainably-focused varieties.
The proposal to create the centre was signposted 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 sharehoolding ministers of Plant & Food Research.
The centre will be jointly funded by Plant & Food Research and Zespri, with the organisations sharing royalties from any future commercialised new varieties.
Plant & Food chief executive David Hughes says 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 chief executive Dan Mathiesn says the venture underpinned the industry's commitment to accelerate innovation.
"This is an exciting developent 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," he says.
Zespri and Plant & Food Research have also announced that experienced agri-food and innovation sector director Michael Ahie has been appointed to chair the Kiwifruit Centre board. Ahie is chancellor of Massey University and a former chair of Plant & Food Research.
Ahie says the board expects to announce the appointment of a chief executive for the Kiwifruit Breeding Centre in the coming month.