News and stories

Behind the vines: Protecting the Gold, Green and Red


15 May 2024

Zespri is a thriving co-operative of kiwifruit growers in New Zealand. Headquartered in Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty and with offices in over 20 countries, Zespri is the world’s largest marketer of kiwifruit, selling in over 50 countries. It also works with growers in South Korea, Italy, Japan and France in the Northern Hemisphere with the aim of providing kiwifruit to consumers all year round.

Fundamental to Zespri’s success is its brand that emphasizes consistent high-quality kiwifruit, global reach and partnerships, investment in innovation and safeguarding orchards from threats of pests and diseases. That’s why Zespri prioritises biosecurity and investment in this area for effective biosecurity risk management. Dr Chandan Pal, Innovation Manager - Biosecurity at Zespri, says, “Biosecurity research is a core and essential component of what we do to protect our industry, preventing the introduction or spread of harmful organisms to kiwifruit orchards. A top priority is investment in science to understand the nature of significant biosecurity threats, and developing tools for their management should they arrive.”

Zespri and the kiwifruit industry’s dedicated biosecurity body, Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) - also a Pledge member - formed the Biosecurity Advisory Group as part of the industry’s joint investment into science and innovation, with the goal of reducing the risk and impact of biosecurity incursions to the industry. The group provides expert advice in biosecurity science, identifies knowledge gaps and assists in prioritising research needs relating to kiwifruit biosecurity threats that are not yet established in New Zealand. Furthermore, Zespri leverage learnings from in its global kiwifruit growing regions. This knowledge exchange strengthens biosecurity preparedness for the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.

An example of recent innovation efforts is work undertaken in China in partnership with the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) and Plant and Food Research on brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) biocontrol using the ‘Samurai wasp’ (Trissolcus japonicus). This determined an optimal release strategy (especially the wasp release numbers, frequency and timing) for effective control of BMSB in the event of an incursion in New Zealand. This valuable information was shared with the BMSB Council and other stakeholders to benefit all industry partners and agri-sectors so that all parties can work together to limit impacts on growers, farmers, and our industries should BMSB get here.

Leading with innovation

Chandan provides strategic direction and technical expertise in the management of the kiwifruit industry’s biosecurity R&D programmes and leads the biosecurity innovation team. Additionally, his work helps increase resilience in kiwifruit production, from pests, diseases, and climate change.

Zespri's biosecurity innovation team leverages scientific solutions to bolster the kiwifruit industry's preparedness for potential future biosecurity incursions. This collaborative effort, spearheaded by Zespri, unites research organizations and key stakeholders like Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH), the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Better Border Biosecurity (B3), the Kiwifruit Breeding Centre (KBC), phytosanitary organizations in global kiwifruit regions, other horticultural sectors, and, of course, Zespri's own kiwifruit growers. Through this collaborative approach, Zespri ensures successful outcomes for the entire industry.

The team also prioritise effective translation and extension of research outcomes into practical information that is readily understood and used by growers, ensuring these outcomes have the most effect possible in safeguarding kiwifruit production.

With a PhD in Medical Science (Bioinformatics) and a Master of Science in Post-Genomic Science, Chandan has been with Zespri since 2021 and before that was a senior scientist with Biosecurity New Zealand. He notes that people in the wider community should also stay alert for any signs of pests or diseases. If you do notice something that is suspect, catch it, take a photograph and report it to the Biosecurity New Zealand hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

Current top threats to the kiwifruit industry are exotic fruit flies like the Queensland fruit fly, the brown marmorated stink bug and the Spotted Lanternfly. More information about these and other pests can be found on KVH’s ‘Kiwifruit’s most unwanted’ webpage.