Industry & Trade

Grape Breeder IFG opening new lab this summer

June 07 , 2023

International Fruit Genetics LLC (IFG), in Bakersfield, CA, indicates in a June 7 press release that this summer it is opening a new state-of-the-art breeding and research laboratory. This is part of IFG’s innovative $19 million campus, Fruitworks| IFG Discovery Center in McFarland, California. IFG indicates it is the world’s largest table grape breeder.

While the Fruitworks campus is to open in the spring of 2024, the laboratory will be functional early this summer, offering IFG’s research and development team more than ten times the size of its current lab. It will allow access to the newest and most highly technical laboratory equipment to enhance the IFG research and development team’s work, from tissue and plant cultures to virus testing to molecular research.

Dr. Chris Owens, IFG’s lead plant breeder, says the new facility increases his team’s research scope and brings in-house projects that were previously outsourced due to space restrictions. 

In addition, there are many molecular genetics projects that the team can now delve into such as determining relationships between individuals, tracking favorable genes in different populations, and understanding the genetic control of economically important traits.

Furthermore, the team can now conduct in-house virus testing using molecular tools, helping to identify any virus-infected plants and eliminate the virus when necessary. Dr. Owens says that his team is looking to add functions such as flavor chemistry, to pinpoint more accurately which growing conditions will lead to enhanced flavors as well as plant pathology and plant physiology.

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“What we've created here is a world class laboratory built from the ground up. We are continuing the tradition that Dr. David Cain, co-founder of IFG, began over 20 years ago: to naturally breed fruit with unique and delicious flavors that both surprise and delight customers,” says Owens. “Before we bring anything into the field, we start all breeding programs in the laboratory and the new facilities allow us to continue to innovate and amplify our research methods.”

“Our newly expanded laboratory is part of IFG’s official growth strategy,” indicates Andy Higgins, CEO, IFG. “Not only do we get to intensify the scope of our breeding and research, but this facility allows us the opportunity to increase our current R&D team.  Right now, we have the best-in-class plant breeder and researchers, but soon, we will be able to recruit from the finest universities as well as pull from some of the world’s top fruit breeding regions, such as Chile and our home-base in Kern County.  This includes hiring food chemists, post-harvest physiologists and other research team members.”

Another area where IFG wants to expand its breeding personnel is the data science field. New genomic technologies mean fruit breeders can generate terabytes of genetic data (which equals 1,000,000 megabytes) at a low cost compared to historical standards. This data can unveil critical information, such as the color or taste of a berry.  The newly expanded laboratory facilities will allow the IFG research and development team to hire data scientists to analyze the large data sets. 

About IFG

Headquartered in Bakersfield, Calif., IFG is the world’s largest premium fruit-breeding company, which boasts more than 48 patented table grape varieties.  Founded in 2001, the company is internationally recognized for its top quality, non-GMO fruit varieties in the table grape, cherry and raisin industries that were pioneered by the company’s co-founder and former Lead Plant Breeder, world-renowned fruit scientist Dr. David Cain. Following Dr. Cain’s retirement, the team is now led by Dr. Chris Owens. IFG patents and licenses its varieties to worldwide marketers and growers, with licensees in 18 countries and its fruit actively marketed in over 30 countries.

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