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Early last century a New Zealand nurseryman planted the first seeds of a Chinese fruiting plant called Yang Tao, or Chinese Gooseberry. Fifty years later, New Zealand exporters renamed the fruit ‘Kiwifruit’ for the rapidly growing US market. Today, more than a million tonnes of kiwifruit are shipped around the world each year, with Italy and New Zealand the largest producers.

UniQuest, The University of Queensland’s main commercialisation company, plans to launch a similar agribusiness success story with the global development of another Chinese fruit crop known as Yang Mei, Chinese Bayberry, or Red Bayberry.

The attractive Red Bayberry fruit are similar in size to cherries and have been grown in China for centuries. Every summer they are enthusiastically sought after for perceived health benefits and their refreshing and delicious flavour. The fruit, however, have never been established as a crop outside of China.

New varieties of Red Bayberry, developed at UQ, are now thriving in the State’s subtropics, producing commercial yields of fruit just three years after transplanting.

Unlike the New Zealand growers, UniQuest has ensured the intellectual assets behind UQ’s development of the Red Bayberry are protected so that royalties and license fees can be generated.

UniQuest is now looking to partner with investors to develop the crop here in Australia and also to establish a global production and marketing network.

“We have had a lot of interest from Australian fruit growers, and a small group along the east coast of Australia will receive their first trees to trial early next year,” said UniQuest Manager of Innovation and Commercial Development, Cameron Turner.

“With the support of an investor, a new Australian food company could be delivering this delicious summer fruit to Australian and international consumers within five years,” Mr Turner said.

Pink Lady apples, macadamias, cashews and olives, now firm family favourites, are relatively new commercial crops for Australia which were supported by forward thinking investors.

UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said the company has a proven track record of commercialising university-based agricultural research.

“Private investment gave UniQuest start-up Aussie Colours a boost to launch its ornamental, drought-hardy native Australian plants internationally, and that enterprise has been growing steadily since 2007,” Mr Henderson said.

“We have also negotiated licences for sugarcane innovations with key players in that global industry, and facilitated a number of other commercial deals for university agribusiness projects.

“The Red Bayberry fruit provides an exciting opportunity for an astute investor with an interest in Australian food and agriculture.”

Focus group research shows consumers enjoy the berry-like fruit. Perhaps most similar to mulberries in flavour, the fruit is described as juicy, ‘explosive’, plump and fleshy. Red Bayberry is fresh and crisp, has an intense flavour and good balance of sweetness and tartness.

With the current crop ripening, now is the time for interested parties to arrange a site visit to the University’s plantation on the Sunshine Coast with Cameron Turner.

“We can introduce them to the research team and the growers and let them see for themselves how this might just be the new venture they’ve been looking for,” Mr Turner said.