Kiwifruit Psa saviour celebrated at awards

Zespri's SunGold kiwifruit, which helped the industry recover from the Psa crisis, has been acknowledged with two major innovation awards. Photo: File
Zespri's SunGold kiwifruit, which helped the industry recover from the Psa crisis, has been acknowledged with two major innovation awards. Photo: File

A brand of kiwifruit that helped the billion-dollar industry battle back from the Psa-V crisis has been acknowledged with two honours at the NZ Innovation Awards.

Zespri described its SunGold kiwifruit as the "cornerstone" of the recovery from the Psa-V disaster that unfolded in 2010 - and the key to the Tauranga-based company's goal of more than doubling sales revenue to $4.5 billion by 2025.

It had a high yield, tolerated Psa, handled and stores well through the supply chain and was popular with consumers, said the company's operations manager of new cultivar development, Bryan Parkes.

Zespri SunGold was fast tracked to commercialisation in a crisis - the incursion of the vine killing bacteria Psa that destroyed the highly successful gold kiwifruit variety Hort16A.

With positive feedback from the markets, Zespri had allocated another 400 hectares of SunGold licence this year and provision for another 400 hectares each year for the next three years.

At last night's awards in Auckland, the brand received the Sustained Innovation Excellence award, and Export Innovator of the Year.

"Winning these awards is a real boost for the many researchers who've worked on this programme over the years and I'm both humbled and proud to accept them on their behalf," Parkes said.

"It takes a long time to commercialise a new cultivar: SunGold was commercialised in 2010 and has almost entirely replaced the previous gold cultivar Zespri Gold or Hort16A, which was very susceptible to Psa.

"We have a new green and a red cultivar in precommercial trials and, if either of them have what it takes to be another successful Zespri cultivar, a commercialisation decision will be made in the next few years."

Meanwhile, the awards' top honour, the Bayer Supreme New Zealand prize, went to ARANZ Medical for its advanced scanning technology, Silhouette, which measures wound healing and ensures the right treatment is being used to promote faster healing and more accurate diagnosis.

Their scanning technology has also been applied to creating and developing FastSCAN, a 3D scanning system that helps custom-fit orthotics and prosthetics for increased comfort.

Some of the 21 winners included Farmshed Labs for Flashmate, a touch-sensitive disposable detector which indicates when a cow is in heat and ready for breeding, Auror, a software platform that allows police and businesses to share information about crime incidents, and Sunfed, a high protein food system to make what tastes, feels and cooks like animal meat directly from plants.

- NZ Herald

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