Berry Sensation® grows strawberries all year round (image: © MECRUS GROUP)
To make your business commercially successful, you need a point of difference. A few key factors come into play in the production of fresh strawberries:
- Shelf life.
Victorian farmer and Managing Director of Berry Sensation®, Barry Richards, knows this all too well and has built his company off the strawberries he imports from an overseas breeder. In its 5th year of development, this Australian company has found success by importing unique varieties they believe will suit the Australian market and make the company stand out.
In recent years, Barry has protected and commercialised 4 new strawberry varieties in Australia, including MYAG-HB coined as Blush strawberries. These strawberries were granted a PBR on 17 August 2020 and are white in colour and extra sweet! Another variety, MYAG-2AD coined as Desire, is a sweet red strawberry that is unique for its continuous cropping, which enables Barry to maintain his supply chain throughout the year.
The process of applying for a plant breeder’s right (PBR) was new to Barry and his team when they started. He began by asking questions and was pleased to find that IP Australia examiners were very helpful in answering them. Once he understood the application process, Barry knew what benefits PBR would bring and why the process can seem so time-consuming. He explains, ‘Because you are protecting a product, you’ve got to expect them to be thorough and take a little bit of time.’
The value of plant breeder’s rights
‘It costs a lot of time and effort to breed or bring plants into Australia,’ Barry explains. ‘If there’s some uniqueness in your variety, it’s a particular market advantage, so you don’t want these running loose!’
One key hurdle when importing is post-entry quarantine, which is essential to ensure the plant material is free of pests and diseases but can take some time to be performed. Barry then puts the fruit through his own testing regime where they decide on which varieties they want to release into the Australian market.
A big risk to Barry and his company is someone getting a hold of their variety and propagating it, especially after the time and effort it takes to get them into Australia. Plant breeder’s rights allow him to reproduce, sell, and prevent others from using his varieties ensuring his rare strawberries stay a competitive advantage.
Your business strategy and plant breeder’s rights
A key part of Berry Sensation®’s business strategy is to own and manage the rights to unique varieties in Australia. Along with their Blush and Desire strawberries, they have secured the rights to 4 other strawberry varieties in Australia and New Zealand from their breeder in Japan with the view of applying for more in the future.
‘The critical part of our business is that it is not a generic strawberry plant that anyone can just grow and grow,’ Barry clarifies. ‘We’ve got the exclusivity to [our strawberries] and now they basically can’t be copied’.
Barry continues to use his PBRs for his own growing use, meaning he has not licensed others to reproduce or sell his varieties.
Blush by Berry Sensation® is a uniquely different strawberry (image: Berry Sensation®)
Advice from a fellow fruit grower
Barry’s advice for other businesses looking to protect their plants is to get a good Qualified Person (QP) who is experienced with the application process and procedures.
Juggling a busy workload, Barry personally found the processes to be quite difficult to manage and needed guidance. Barry has been able to build a great working relationship with his QP and continues to receive fantastic support for his business.
‘That’s been our big saving grace,’ Barry explains. ‘Our Qualified Person is respected by the growers and IP Australia. [He] is well versed in the process, so he was a good intermediary between us and IP Australia.’