Del Monte partners with Australian university for banana disease research
Fresh Del Monte Produce has announced a partnership with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia to further the development of sustainable, disease-resistant bananas.
The research will focus on utilizing breakthroughs in plant trait developments to cultivate bananas that are resistant to diseases such as Tropical Race 4 (TR4), also known as Fusarium or Panama disease.
TR4 is a fungus that has been an issue with banana crops for decades but has begun spreading faster over the past 10 years.
Fresh Del Monte’s investment in this research marks the company as a leading global banana marketer openly funding scientific research to address a significant issue for the industry. This is in keeping with the company’s expressed mission to contribute to the banana industry’s long-term sustainability and further improve many of the challenges facing it.
“We are addressing critical issues facing our industry as we speak,” said Hans Sauter, chief sustainability officer, and senior VP of research and development, agricultural services for Fresh Del Monte.
“The ability to leverage the capabilities of the team at QUT is very exciting. We see the potential with these revolutionary technologies, and we are looking forward to putting these tools to work to solve real problems facing the world. Fresh Del Monte is proud to partner with a respected research university facility like QUT in this endeavor.”
At QUT, the scientific team is led by Professor James Dale. He is a leading researcher in the field of biotechnology whose research career includes tropical fruit research with an emphasis on biofortification, molecular farming, and disease resistance, including both traditional and genetically modified bananas.
Thus far, Dale’s research team has had promising results utilizing the CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) family of DNA sequences for “gene-editing” or changing genes within organisms. This technology has varied uses including the development of plant biotechnology products.
“These new gene-editing technologies represent a new opportunity for addressing the global food supply in ways we never imagined,” said Dale.
“Our partnership with Fresh Del Monte represents a great opportunity for our research to reach society in an efficient and commercially feasible manner.”
Fresh Del Monte and QUT’s collaboration is to be carried out with multiple phases over the next five years, with the final result being the release of commercial resistant banana