"Arsène Maillard, founder of Agro Sélections Fruits, passed away a year ago. Since then, we have been working to keep his memory alive through the development of the varietal improvement programs he started in the 1960's with his wife Laurence," said Aurélie Ferrieux, executive director of ASF Edition, and Christophe Bouchet, director of Varietal Improvement at Agro Sélections Fruits, who analyzed the company's history in fruit variety breeding and the keys to its activity.
"Even though our selection processes have been modernized, our work continues to be guided by the essential principles of the Maillard family. It is a visionary philosophy that puts the consumer at the center of our thinking. That is why we keep a close eye on the market and consumer needs for the development of all the product lines we work with: peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries and apples."
"When the focus of any varietal improvement program was on the color and caliber, at Agro Sélections Fruits we already had organoleptic quality at the core of our activity. This is how we differentiated ourselves from other breeders at that time, and this has allowed our genetics to be recognized worldwide as 'the virtuoso of flavor'. Now we see other breeders following in our footsteps, also making this change in their varietal development lines, and we can only congratulate ourselves for having stuck to our principles. The most essential, in our view, is to seek consumer satisfaction, and that is what matters most to us."
"This consumer-centered approach also entailed observing the evolution of society and anticipating possible changes in consumer habits. Fifty years ago, it was difficult to foresee the exponential development of out-of-home fruit consumption. However, we were ahead of the times with the release of the Sweetcap® Paraguayo peach variety, which revolutionized the flat fruit market, inside and outside the home."
"Since that time, we have not stopped improving flat fruit varieties and, today, we are offering outstanding, best-in-market varieties of both flat peaches and flat nectarines, marketed under the ONDINE™ brand. We deal with flat fruit with exceptional flavor and perfect pistillate closure, and we have a number of varieties that allow us to cover the entire production calendar. Our crossbreeding programs are oriented towards extending this calendar with increasingly earlier and later varieties."
"Thus, the incorporation of Agro Sélections Fruits into the Frutaria group has given a new impulse to our programs and created new opportunities to develop programs in the Huelva area and obtain varieties under the same Maillard philosophy, but with a low chilling condition. And that not only for flat fruit, but for all our ranges of varieties: round fruit, apricots, cherries and apples."
"Our portfolio has been expanding with varieties adapted to a wider range of conditions, which we are also testing through the evaluation network we have developed in various Spanish production areas, namely Zaragoza, Badajoz and Seville. At the most advanced stage of selection, the material is tested in the different areas and evaluated according to the criteria specific to each area. We are also in a position to propose calendars of recommended varieties by growing areas, and not just on the basis of the results observed in a single farm, which is a great step forward. Choosing a variety is a very important decision. Growers cannot afford to make a mistake in their investments, and our duty as a breeder is to provide them with all the necessary information to make their plantations a success."
"More than 10 years ago, Arsène Maillard started working on another challenge, also visionary then: striving for greater sustainability. He was already fully aware that in the future, consumers would want to eat healthy and environmentally-friendly products. For this reason, at Agro Sélections Fruits we are using molecular markers in the early selection phase to identify specimens carrying markers associated with certain tolerances. These are then placed in the field, in a situation suitable for the expression of such traits, allowing us to confirm whether they are tolerant candidates. In this way, we select more and more tolerant varieties to reduce the use of treatments and produce healthier fruit."
"Faced with the demands of society and distributors, with restrictions on the use of traditional protection solutions, and given the increase in cultivation costs, our role as breeders is to help growers take up those new challenges. How? By providing varieties with greater tolerance."
"Lastly, and because we know that health comes first, we are working on lines of varieties with high antioxidant contents and recognized for their nutritional properties. We are talking about red-fleshed varieties, especially nectarines, flat peaches and apples."
"But we can't deviate from our main line. We are very demanding when it comes to selecting red-fleshed varieties. They must meet our taste criteria. That complicates the selection process, because in many cases, red flesh is associated with a sour, bitter taste which does not meet our flavor promise. But thanks to successive crossbreeding, we are already achieving the desired flavors in red pulp, allowing us to offer both health and a pleasant experience!"
"In short, since the beginnings of Agro Sélections Fruits, the consumer has been and remains the key to our R&D process, and that remains our philosophy within our company and the Frutaria Innovation division to which we belong. We are at the start of a new momentum, with many projects being developed."
For more information:
Route d'Alenya, La Prade de Mousseillous
66200 Elne, France