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The Challenges of Varietal Innovation

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A benchmark in quality and taste overtime, from the grower to the marketer and to the consumer.
In the fruit genetics sector, breeders often work in relation to the general activity of production and fruit sales. We work based on creation processes with a minimum rhythm of a decade:  on average, it takes 20 to 30 years between the act of hybridization and the marketing of the single variety that emanates from it. This means that even today, we live with the products of relatively old work.
One major hurdle was crossed in the 90s with the establishment of the French Communal Plant Variety Certificate (COVC) which gave real economic value to genetic innovation by allowing for the protection of the fruit. The success of the steps toward commercial branding also stimulated the emergence of creation initiatives by the private operator, institutions and agriculturist who were searching for a way to either differentiate themselves through exclusive products or to develop a true economic objective around their varieties.
If market demand, social expectations or technical and environmental obstacles guide varietal creation, the breeder always has a responsibility to innovation that the market will adopt or not in the future.  The market expresses its own needs, but innovation always comes from the researchers who work within a minimum timeframe of 20 years.  Who knows what the market will look like 20 or 30 years from now?  It is therefore the responsibility of the operators to guide innovation with regards to technical needs or markets, allowing for the compensation of committed work for decades to come.  The market will not always spontaneously adopt innovation.  We must therefore, come up with a means of diffusion that is adapted for its promotion, success is not guaranteed!
If varietal creation must result in the emergence of new products, the effective differentiation of operators on the market by varietal creation is nevertheless limited: many breeders work with the same genetic resources.  In addition, searching for “exotic” strains demands additional effort and automatically generates a significant extension of time, even longer to integrate a new genetic makeup to a pre-existing one.
Innovative genetics is not always sufficient to ensure its success!  True innovation consists in the combination of a singular genetics with an adapted path to allow for its full expression and to guarantee the qualitative accompaniment of the product to the consumer as well as a specific economic model allowing for the product’s innovative character to be highlighted.  In addition, a balanced sharing of tasks between all of the actors necessary in the economic progress that is essential to varietal creation.
It is the right combination of these three parameters that made Pink Lady® such a success.
It must also be noted that the exclusivity by its nature, limits diffusion, proving that innovation does not always contribute to the development of global consumption: this necessitates a true generalization of innovation, which is not the case with the current trend to privatise genetic innovation.
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