Kiwifruit giant Zespri wants to establish a Kiwifruit Breeding Centre in partnership with Crown research institute Plant & Food Research.
In an update sent to growers on Wednesday, Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson said the proposed centre would be dedicated to breeding new kiwifruit cultivars, creating healthier, better tasting and more sustainability-focused varieties to fulfil the growing demand from consumers.
Mathieson said the 50/50 joint venture would strengthen the work already taking place in the breeding programme which it runs in partnership with Plant and Food.
"This is an exciting step forward for our industry and a natural evolution of the hugely successful 30-year relationship between Zespri and PFR which has delivered such strong returns.
"It represents our commitment to go faster, to explore promising new varieties in our research pipeline and to unlock further innovation so that we can generate even more value for New Zealand and our regions.
"It's also a response to the challenge of staying ahead of increasing competition."
Mathieson said Zespri expected to increase kiwifruit breeding investment by 50 percent over the next decade - from a total of $18 million to over $30m per annum - with the additional investment shared by Zespri and PFR.
While it was hoped the centre could open in mid-2021, Mathieson said any final decision on its establishment would require the approval of the boards of both Zespri and PFR, as well as the shareholding Ministers of PFR which is a government-owned Crown Research Institute.
The centre is proposed to be based in Te Puke, as well as operating out of Kerikeri, Motueka and Mt Albert, and have a presence offshore in both Italy and China.
Mathieson said the company's collaborative research with Plant and Food had already produced the world-leading SunGold Kiwifruit variety, alongside the recently released Zespri Red.