UniQuest, the main research commercialisation company of the University of Queensland (UQ), negotiated a deal with YV Fresh, a Victoria-based grower-owned berry production and marketing company to establish an industry for Myrica rubra in Australia.
UniQuest managing director David Henderson, said that a partnership between UniQuest, Queensland University, YV Fresh and Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) will use government and industry funding to get things moving.
Production through partnership
“Partnering with one of the Australian berry industry’s major stakeholders is a significant move forward for the red bayberry project in terms of market readiness, and also because YV Fresh will be funding ongoing R&D, and that will be supported with a HAL grant,” said Henderson.
“UniQuest has licenced the UQ red bayberry plant breeders rights to YV Fresh so that they and their sub-licencees can propagate trees for fruit production and sell that fruit.”
Red bayberries—are also known as Yang Mei—are sized similar to cherries and have been grown in China for centuries for their flavour and perceived health benefits. Nutritional analyses of the red bayberry in Queensland, China and Japan have shown high levels of antioxidants and other potentially beneficial phytochemicals. The fruit has properties claimed to be anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic.
“The red bayberry has some key advantages for entering the lucrative fresh fruit market. Firstly, it has a pleasant, fresh taste.
“Secondly, as a tree fruit crop, red bayberry should cost less to produce, but can still command a premium retail price similar to blueberries and raspberries. These are important return on investment factors for attracting commercial partners.”
Red Bayberry has not been widely propagated as a commercial crop in countries other than China. However, Prof. Daryl Joyce of UQ’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, has been selecting and evaluating new varieties in collaboration with colleagues overseas and in Australia.
“Funding from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation has been crucial for developing our varieties in readiness for commercialisation. It has enabled a scoping study and the pilot research into germplasm evaluation, seed and vegetative propagation, agronomic and post-harvest handling practices, and consumer acceptance,” Joyce said.
He added that the genotypes have been thriving from Queensland in the north to Victoria in the south, and commercial yields of the fruit could commence just three years after transplanting well-developed nursery plants.
While YV Fresh focuses on developing the crop in Australia and New Zealand, UniQuest will continue to seek investment and partnership arrangements to establish global production and marketing networks.