The WTS spotlight surely fell on Gem® this past month, as excitement and activity built around the first commercial local- and export consignment of the cultivar Gem® being marketed. This formed a good momentum towards the Gem® Growers Club day that was held in Howick on 14 October 2013. The focus of this day was not as in the past primarily on the technical aspects of the cultivar. Rather, both national and international guest speakers highlighted the marketing opportunities for Gem®.
Feedback from a UK based supermarket confirmed that Gem® was accepted into their “finest” range. During the evaluation process, there was not a single negative comment made about the cultivar, and evaluators liked the dark external colour with yellow speckles, loved the yellow flesh colour, and of course were impressed by the taste profile with a fantastic after taste.
Avozilla has been causing a social media storm in recent weeks after it was released in limited numbers at Tesco stores in the UK for £3 apiece. Articles in Fresh Fruit Portal, Fruit Net, The Independent, The Guardian, Metro, The Huffington Post, Express, Dutch, French and German newspapers, as well as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ shows the fresh produce world intrigued with this giant.
To clear up some confusion on the matter, Avozilla is NOT genetically modified and has not been treated with any growth-enhancing chemicals. A Westfalia farmer found the feral mother-tree growing in the lush natural forest around Modjadjiskloof, Limpopo, South Africa. Avozilla is a natural monster fruit with superb eating quality.
To explain how this extraordinary avocado came into being, avocados have three races (sub-species), and Avozilla is a cross between two of these races. The West Indian race of avocados does grow especially large but the fruit are typically watery and slightly sweet. The Guatemalan race has the typical buttery, nutty taste to which we are accustomed. Avozilla is a cross between these two races, meaning the eating quality is superior to the typical “butter pear” (a pure West Indian variety) and it is also more disease resistant.
Westfalia Fruit has recently trademarked “Avozilla” for our range of Giant Avocados so this publicity is not just a flash in the pan, you will be seeing more of Avozilla and his relatives in the future.
Unfortunately these trees are not available for commercial sale and volumes of fruit are also very limited at this stage. As the news articles have mentioned, there are truly only very few Avozilla trees that are bearing fruit at this stage. From the great interest in these giant avocados, we will be planting additional trees to supply more fruit in the near future.
The founder of Westfalia, Dr Hans Merensky (HM), expressed the wish that international exchange in research should be promoted through Westfalia and the Hans Merensky Foundation. Therefore, WTS has the opportunity to invite a renowned researcher to Westfalia to enable interaction and sharing of international knowledge and experience. In the past, WTS had among others Prof John Menge and Dr Mary Lu Arpaia (both from the University of California Riverside), Prof. Dov Prusky (University of Jerusalem in Israel) and Dr. Richard Campbell (Fairtrade institute in Florida) visiting Westfalia as invited HM Fellows.
For the 2013 Fellow, WTS invited Dr. Iňaki Hormaza from Spain. Professor Hormaza is head of the Institute of Subtropical Fruit research at the University of Malaga with key interests in molecular tools for fingerprinting, breeding and germplasm conservation in temperate and subtropical fruit tree species; as well as the reproductive biology of temperate and subtropical fruit tree species with special interest in the effects of climate change on reproductive biology and pollen-pistil interactions. His avocado-specific research focuses on pollination of flowers; specifically the effect of starch content of avocado styles and its’ effect on pollen tube growth and pollination.
Dr. Hormaza visited Westfalia Fruit Estates from the 6th of May 2013. To facilitate and encourage international cross-pollination of research ideas, WTS also invited a few selected guests to contribute to a week-long technical session. These guests included Dr. Mary Lu Arpaia (University of California Riverside), Dr Elizabeth Dann (Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation, Australia), Dr. Monica Castro (Catholic University of Valparaiso, Chile) and Dr. Noelani van den Berg (University of Pretoria, Forestry and Biotechnology Institute). Also attending was a team from the Californian avocado nursery (Brokaw Nursery), which included Rob Brokaw and Dr. Octaviano Lemus.
The team of international visitors, in conjunction with the WTS research team, spent five days in various Westfalia Fruit Estate orchards and related facilities discussing a wide range of topics relevant to the management of the avocado supply/production chain. The visit by the 2013 HM fellow and his accompanying guests ensured that not only was the newest knowledge on avocados was exchanged, but it also strengthened the important collaborative bonds that WTS had developed with key institutions throughout the past few decades.