Māori and Crown joint venture seeks to create ‘billion-dollar’ Kiwi berries business

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

The agreement provides the new company with access to Plant & Food Research berry genetics.
The agreement provides the new company with access to Plant & Food Research berry genetics.
A joint venture company has been created in New Zealand to breed and develop new berry varieties to be marketed exclusively by Māori-owned firm Miro Limited Partnership (Miro), which has set its sights on becoming a 'billion-dollar' business.

The Government-owned science institute Plant & Food Research and Miro signed a 50:50 joint venture agreement at an event hosted by Ngati Haua at the iwi’s Rukumoana Marae in Morrinsville.

The agreement provides the new company with access to Plant & Food Research berry genetics for the development of proprietary new varieties.

The joint venture partners will create a breeding programme for new high-value berry varieties, and Miro will grow, market and sell the berries in New Zealand and globally with support from BerryCo NZ Limited.  

The joint venture is a milestone in horticultural entrepreneur Steve Saunders’ vision for Miro, to create a step-change in both the New Zealand berry industry and the regional Māori economy for current and future generations.

Miro Chair Rukumoana Schaafhausen said: “Miro is owned by over twenty Māori trusts, iwi and entities from the top of the north to the top of the South Island, from the East Coast to Taranaki. We came together because we wanted jobs for our people, higher returns on our land, and to own IP and a global business that would secure a future for our mokopuna. We’re so excited about the opportunities ahead of us and we would love for more Māori landowners to join in.

Billion dollar business?

“In simple terms, Miro is aiming to build a business every bit as successful as [kiwifruit firm] Zespri.  It represents a high-value, market-led, vertically-integrated berry export business. There’s no reason why berries can’t be the next billion dollar New Zealand horticulture industry, and we’re proud to partner with Plant & Food Research to create that future.”

Plant & Food Research CEO David Hughes said the joint venture was aligned with the science company’s mandate to use research innovation to add value to fruit, vegetable, crop and food products and their industries.

“In Miro we have a partner with global ambitions matched by scale and capability in New Zealand,” ​he said “This deal will open up fresh innovation challenges for our scientists and it’s a welcome addition to our diverse range of commercial activity. We are especially pleased to contribute to the rapidly-growing Māori economy and to support job creation and business activity in the regions.”​ 

Willie Jackson, the Minister of Employment and Associate Minister for Māori Development, attended and spoke at the signing event.

In January, we reported on a new $1m project that aims to join some of New Zealand's Māori-owned food and beverage businesses with leading researchers to develop new functional products for export to Asia.

Nuku ki te Puku, which connects Māori food and beverage businesses across the supply chain, is partnering with New Zealand's High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge to develop high-value food-for-health products.

The prototype food will be a new plant-based product that meets nutrient content regulations within New Zealand and China for higher-protein, lower-carbohydrate and lower-glycaemic index (GI) snack foods.

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