Interview with Managing Director Sabine Fey
Food Trends. It never gets boring in culinary terms. New eating habits and food are coming to the foreground. The mission of Artevos GmbH, based in Freiburg, Germany, is to bring the new fruit products to the market. The managing director of Artevos GmbH, Sabine Fey, explains in this interview what exactly fruit innovations are and which advantages they offer.
Ms. Fey, what are new fruit products?
Breedings are based on crossbreeding and selection
Sabine Fey We qualify the new fruit varieties as novelties if they have been produced by conventional breeding, i.e. by selective pollination of selected mother varieties with pollen from selected father varieties. Thus, we attempt to combine the favorable properties of two plants in a new one, so to say in their offspring. This is how fruit novelties are created.
How likely is it that such a crossing will succeed?
Breeders Need a long breath
Sabine Fey The probability that a crossing will be successful right away is relatively low. Within several centuries of using the method of cross breeding, it is not definitely known which qualities of parent plants are actually passed on to the „children“. In the end, it is a matter of luck whether one or the other property actually exists in the new seedling or not. „Good thing wants to have a while“ – a very apt saying referring to the breeding work for fruit varieties. After the selection of suitable parents and the pollination of the flowers, the work really starts. The seeds resulting from the pollinated flowers are sown and the plants are closely monitored over the next few years. Disease-prone plants and plants with fruits which do not meet the requirements are sorted out – usually only a handful of favourites remain, which are further observed over many years and tested for their suitability for cultivation. After this long time, often only one variety crystallizes which is then actually propagated and marketed. In addition to the breeding targets set above, all other characteristics should also be correct, such as fruit size, quality, shelf life, etc.
These are some of our selection criteria for the new fruit products at a glance:
– Taste of the fruits
– Resistance to diseases and pests
– Form and size of the fruits Früchte
– Ripening time
– Amount and regularity of crop yield
– Growth strength and character of the tree
– Frost hardness of wood and flower
– Storage and transportability
– Suitable for fresh consumption and further processing in the private „hobby“ area and for the „professionals“ in commercial fruit growing (e.g. for juice, mousse, dried fruit, schnaps)
– Content of health-promoting components in fruits (e.g. vitamins)
In a nutshell, it can be roughly said that from the time of crossing until a new variety is actually put on the market, it often takes up to 20 years.
What has for Artevos GmbH particular importance when it is selecting fruit products?
Artevos places its stake on good taste
Sabine Fey Our novelties are characterized by the fact that they have properties which are not necessarily to be found in the supermarket or which bring an improvement for the hobby gardener to existing varieties. I think here, for example, of special stripes of the apple variety Karneval[S] or of the sweet cherry Swing[R], which solves two classic problems in the private garden: due to the early ripening period it is not affected by the cherry-fruit fly and it is self-fertile which has the advantage that a gardener does not need a second cherry tree in the garden.
These are, for example, criteria that are crucial for us in making decision regarding the new varieties and in making conclusion that this variety has so many advantages that it can bring benefits to the consumer or the fruit grower. For us, however, above all is the taste. That’s why our motto is „Flavour First“. We see that there are many varieties in the supermarket which are „just beautiful“ because the consumer buys according to optics. We work a lot with direct marketers, the appearance is also important, but it is not in the foreground, what is more important here is the taste through which the direct marketers can bind customers to themselves and make them regular customers because they ask for this particular fruit variety. The same applies to the hobby area – the fruit I harvest in my own garden should taste good above all. Our goal is to create the new taste experiences through the fruit novelties that is why – Flavour First!
Where do the new fruit products come from?
Cooperation partners of Artevos GmbH: Breeders & Experimental Institutes
Sabine Fey To make it clear, we do not breed ourselves. We are the partners of the breeders whose varieties we test for cultivation and marketing ability and bring them to the market after a positive evaluation. There are different models. We work together with breeding institutes which we also support financially in the breeding work and which we then also represent exclusively. There are breeders who prefer to advertise their varieties, but here also we always put the varieties through their paces, so we never rely on any descriptions of third parties. Only when we are convinced of breeding, we actually take part in such tenders. We also have various private breeders who contact us directly. The breeders are spread all over the world – we work together with German and European breeders and institutes as well as with breeders outside Europe.
How many new fruit products does Artevos GmbH have in its range?
The long breath
Sabine Fey From 13 different fruit species – apples, pears, quinces, apricots / interspecific hybrids, sweet and sour cherries, an almond, mirabelles, peaches/nectarines, plums /reneclodes, raspberries, currants and gooseberries – we now have a total of around 120 different fruit varieties in our assortment. This is the result of our work over 25 years, but the actual breeding work of these varieties started much earlier. There are also varieties which have been on the market for 25 years and still remain relatively new for fruit. For example, the apple variety Pinova[S]. We have this variety about 25 years in management; it means that the first crossbreeding probably started about 45 years ago, so you need a long breath.
How was Artevos GmbH launched?
Cooperation advantage: Community
Sabine Fey Artevos‘ two predecessor companies were Artus and Gevo Group, both of which were founded in the 1990s. Artevos appeared from the merger of the two companies in 2010. The purpose of establishing two companies at that time was the interest of the founders to gain access to the new varieties in order to be able to offer good varieties to their own customers and the orchards. As a single company, one cannot afford this effort to go to the breeders, to keep in contact with the breeders or the experimental institutes, to put the varieties through their paces, etc. That is why companies which are actually competitors have come together to tackle this task together. Today, Artevos GmbH represents an association of 15 shareholders – nurseries and orchards – from Germany and Switzerland. In 2016, we even won a Taspo Award for this type of business cooperation. So the basic idea is actually the common strength to jointly obtain variety rights, since individual nurseries have much harder time obtaining license agreements from large breeders than if we as Artevos GmbH appear there united with 15 shareholders and many licensees in the background. That is simply the community that makes you strong.
So what exactly is the task of Artevos GmbH?
The business model
Sabine Fey Artevos GmbH does not have its own production. We do not produce plants, we do not produce fruit, we do not have our own orchards or experimental plants, but we are the exclusive link between the breeders whose interests we represent and the testing sites which carry out the variety tests together with us. We introduce a new variety to the nurseries which multiply the plants of the new varieties for fruit growers (production and marketing of the fruit) – or garden centers (sale of trees for private use in the hobby garden). This means that Artevos GmbH actually has only one organizational function which is realized by a small team located in Freiburg. This is how it functions: we go to breeders/experimental institutes and look at the varieties on site. If we see interesting breedings there, we let them multiply a few test trees. These are then planted by our shareholders in the first step. Among them we have, for example, a specialist for the apples or for the plums and etc. If the varieties are positively evaluated, then trees are reproduced and these are then spread widely, i.e. at experimental institutes, sometimes already at practice plants, in order to get feedback from there on how the variety behaves in different climatic areas and how it behaves in the practical test. This usually takes at least four to five years of harvesting the crop yield until we have really resilient returns. At this time we coordinate the examination and collect the results and thus create a basis for the company to actually make a decision whether or not this variety should be marketed by Artevos GmbH. If the shareholders decide to launch the variety on the market, we take over the administrative tasks. We sign the license agreement with the breeder and apply for the variety protection for the variety – this is a kind of „patent for plants“. As a rule, a plant variety protection test also takes another three, four or even five years. If the plant variety right is granted, no one but the breeder, who is the owner of the variety, may propagate plants of that variety. In the end, our business model is based precisely on the fact that we then charge a licence fee for the propagation rights, i.e. any nursery that wants to grow trees or plants must first sign a license agreement with us. For this purpose, the nursery gets the right to reproduce the trees and sell them to an orchard or a garden center. From the royalties we refinance the breeding work of the breeder, the marketing for the plant introduction on the market and we refinance the entire administration as well as the plant variety protection itself.
Who are new fruit products for?
Fruit novelties are for everyone
Sabine Fey Because we are looking for resistant varieties which have interesting aroma, the fruit novelties are of course interesting not only for the professional fruit growers, but also for every hobby gardener. The „hobby varieties“ are tested with due diligence as well as all other varieties for professional fruit growing. Some varieties, for example, cannot be well stored, which would be a criterion, why they are not appropriate for the fruit growing industry, but could be quite interesting for the hobby sector if everything else is ok. Or other forms of growth. Column fruit varieties or dwarf fruit are particularly interesting for the hobby sector, but are completely irrelevant for commercial fruit growing. They eventually emerged as a mutation. In the meantime, breeders are working specifically on these by-products in order to find a solution for the special situation in the hobby gardens, in ever smaller gardens, on the terrace or balcony and so on. Thus the hobby gardener can grow his own fruit at home or at least has a small amount „to snack“. Thus the children can see that a fruit grows from a flower on a tree, which they can then harvest and eat.
Where do you get the plant material for the Artevos fruit novelties?
Sabine Fey In Europe, we work with about 220 nurseries which produce plants of the varieties we manage. These nurseries are listed in our suppliers’ database on our website. The users can either search for the respective suppliers of a specific variety or search for producers nearby in our Suppliers’ Database.
Are you looking for more information about plant breeding?
Here you can find the information brochure of the Federal Institute for Agriculture and Food (FIAF) as a free download: „Größer – schöner – gesünder? Pflanzenzüchtung heute“ („Bigger – nicer – healthier? Plant breeding today“)