New pome and stone fruit varieties such as the Eden Gold™ pear, watermelon plum and plumegranate with unique flavours, offer a focus on an unrivalled eating experience for end consumers and adaptability to the differing climates in 34 countries, is what matters most to Israel’s Ben Dor Fruits and Nurseries.
According to Ido Ben Dor, who’s family has been farming since 1884: “We focus on stone fruit and pome fruit varieties and several additional species. The key is on presenting unique flavour and eating experience, with varieties that are adaptable to the climates in all continents. This is what matters most to us. Our new varieties must perform in terms of good yields, disease resilience and adaptability to climate stresses. This includes prolonged heat waves, hardiness etc. We have developed low chill pome fruit, apple, plums, peaches and apricots.”
Eden Gold pears
A recent example of such a variety is the Eden Gold™, it is the new pear Ben Dor is marketing worldwide. “It has very good and unique eating quality. It stores for very long and has a long shelf life, consumed at harvest at the same quality as at end of storage. It is also adaptable to very low and high chilling areas. It is easy to handle, has good early fruiting and very good yields. We are developing this specific project in different territories. We put a lot of efforts in finding the best partners for managing the club in each country and the most professional nurseries to deliver the best plants to growers. We are still looking for new territories to develop. We have many partners that we are working with in different countries. Our main partners in the US is Family Tree farms and PVM. In Italy Ilenio Bastoni from Greenyard and several good nurseries. In South Africa TopFruit manages Eden Gold. Benoit Escande manages the club in France and in India we licensed IG International,” states Ben Dor.
He says it takes roughly 15 years to come up with a single winning variety. “We are developing and testing varieties initially for harsh environments and warm climate. It is faster to find tolerance to the climate change we are currently experiencing. A main objective is to develop resilience to bacteria’s, viruses and pests. We have several interesting projects in the pipeline at the moment. There are plum varieties, watermelon plums, plumegranates to cover the entire season with very good eating quality. Red flesh nectarines, with very rich taste. Our main focus is on flavour to enhance the eating experience, to get the final customer to come back and look for the product, commit to the variety the family and the brand. We follow the principle of growing with the product, realising it takes a long time to let the final customer become familiar with it. Once she knows it, it is easier for her to come back and purchase more.”
Ben Dor says they have club varieties, which they try to limit and manage with one partner in a country. “For our Eden Gold pear we are looking at making only a few hundred hectares per country available. We are in the early stages, this year we will have roughly 50 hectares available in a territory. In some areas they finished the evaluation and are going to full commercialisation, which is taking place in South Africa now.”
Ben Dor family farms have 250 hectares (2 500 Dunams): “We grow mainly stone fruits, on apples we concentrate in low chill areas production in Israel, which we sell in the months of June, July when there are higher market prices before imports come in. We also have apples available for higher chill areas,” says Ben Dor.
He says they key for them as growers, nursery owners and cultivar developers with their global network of partners, is to maintain contact with retailers to gain direct end consumer feedback. “While we cultivate crops and have a nursery in Israel, we also have an export company. We have contact with retailers in overseas markets, we used to have direct contact up to Covid times when we decided to focus on the local market sales. Every variety we develop has been evaluated by buyers in retail. When we conduct variety testing, we put people in supermarkets to give tastings, either on a commercial basis or we do evaluations in our own facilities, this is part of what we do. Currently we focus on local market production. We shifted to local market due to the challenging global economy, our costs in Israel are much higher than in most of the countries. Therefore we put most of our efforts on research and the breeding program and try to reduce the amount of hectares we cultivate,” stated Ben Dor.