The Biggest Need for the Produce Industry Is...

Returning recently from the Forbes AgTech Summit, the workshops made me think about innovations and how those developments will shape the future of the produce industry. Automation in the field, new hybrid electric technology for trucks, the Internet of things and more are coming our way.

In that vein, I wanted to check in with members of the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group about their thoughts concerning the “biggest need” for the industry going forward. 


What is the biggest need for the agriculture industry in the next ten years? What invention/innovation is necessary for the industry to thrive in the years ahead?

Alan: Being smarter marketers. In the apple industry, instead of just throwing new varieties onto the market, following the model established by Cosmic Crisp looks like a good choice. This involves the industry working together, consumer research, and assistance from Washington State University.

Phil: Green housing and organic

Gary: Food safety professionals

Joe: Alternative labor technologies, mechanization

Mulugheta: I think there is a need to shift from the conventional systems towards agroecological organic systems , low input or environmental friendly production and management or handling systems based on principles and practices would be a better option. Anything invested on this field would be attractive for industries in the next couple of years

Gregory: I suspect that advancements in renewable energy, battery technology and drone tech will play a big role in organic farming in terms of drone imaging for detecting plant stress, micro-drones for pest control and pollination and pruning/harvesting drones. I’m not certain how much disruption will occur in the next ten years, that will be determined by people far more tech savvy then I. 

In terms of indoor growing, I would think that some of the “ROBOFARMS” being built in Japan by “Spread”are going to become more common as well.

Eric: Extending harvested product shelf life , through new packaging innovation

Ray: I believe that for producers located in the state of California; especially smaller operations, it will be trying to figure out how to stay in business. The minimum wage hike that will lead to $15.00 per hour in 2022 is just now showing impact with just $.50 per hour increase this year and last. Will FOB’s rise 40% over the next four or five years without a dramatic decrease in supply? Maybe, but when in history has that ever happened? Will this lead to innovation in harvest, and distribution? No doubt, but at what cost? This minimum wage increase is the biggest story in the U.S. produce industry no one is talking about. Amazing, because it will impact every consumer in the nation.

Karen: Immigration reform, so that we can get the produce harvested

Rob: We need more prove about the health benefit of vegetables. We need it structured and we need to have real official claims.

World consumption per person has never been so low and the chronic diseases have never been so high. Vegetables should be recommended over pills. We run in the Netherlands a project called Reverse Diabetes2. Many patients can stop using their medication when they switch their food pattern to mainly.......... vegetables!

So it is not the storage, the labor or the growing technique, it is about creating legitimate demand.

TK: Kudos to the many who commented and please add your thoughts and “likes” to comments already posted. My first instinct is to look at farm mechanization-automation/labor as the industry’s biggest need, but Rob’s comment about building demand is a point that cannot be overlooked.

Article by Tom Karst, The Packer

Cosmic Crisp™ apple hoping to be out of this world

It takes years to develop a new variety. Cosmic Crisp – the newest apple variety – was 20 years in the making and began at Washington State University under an experimental fruit-breeding program. It’s anticipated to edge out older fruit, such as the outdated red delicious. It’s a naturally bred variety, a cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp. “We like to think that it took the best qualities of both apples,” explained Kathryn Grandy, director of marketing for Proprietary Variety Management. PVM was brought on to provide its experience in research and development, consumer focus and brand development for the Cosmic Crisp.

Huge interest from growers

In 2014 there were so many growers interested in taking this new fruit on, WSU had to choose through a draw system to make their choices more fair. 2017 is the first year of planting. Somewhere around 600,000+ trees were planted. For next year, Grandy says, there are about 5.5 million trees on order, which is almost the maximum number of trees they’re able to provide. “We anticipate the same going into 2019 as well.” Tree orders for 2019 already number in the millions.

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Washington variety exclusive

It will remain a Washington exclusive for the next decade at least. “Growers have been generous in supporting the efforts of WSU and the breeding program. In return they’re given a 10-year exclusive deal to grow the apple,” said Grandy. There are plans, however to do some smaller globalization of the apple in the future years in other growing regions of the world. “But, it’s going to be a very strong Washington apple,” she stated. 35 growers within the state received trees this year. Some have chosen to plant on new ground, some are using existing acreage.

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Commercial volume in 2019

The first commercial availability will be in the fall season of 2019, which will be the third leaf on the trees being planted this year. There will be much more volume anticipated in 2020 because of the subsequently planted trees next year. “It will really continue to ramp up after that,” said Grandy. Washington growers will be exporting to Canada, Mexico and Asia.

Meets consumer's changing tastes

This will impact sales of other varieties, what with consumer tastes changing. “Red Delicious was at one time one of the most popular but consumers are looking for sweet, crunchy and crisp.” With the volume available and only continuing to ramp up with commercial availability, Grandy says she has a feeling it may affect other varieties.  “It’s sweet, tart, crispy, and juicy. It has a wonderful flavor.” The name itself was chosen by consumers through focus group testing to get feedback on the apple’s appearance, flavor and characteristics. 

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Excellent storing apple

She says it also stores amazingly well. “Its storability and volume should make it a 12-month a year apple. Some apples taste good but don’t store as well; they become flavorless or less juicy and mealy. This variety has proven it stores extremely well for the full season.”

Article by Rebecca Dumais, Fresh Plaza

Apple industry readies itself for the big thing called Cosmic Crisp™

Planting surge of highly hyped Cosmic Crisp is likely to test growers, packers, marketers — and consumers.

Raphael Sisneros Garcia prepares to plant Cosmic Crisp apple trees in April in what was a Grandview, Washington, vineyard. The new variety, bred and released by Washington State University, is being planted for the first time commercially this year. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Raphael Sisneros Garcia prepares to plant Cosmic Crisp apple trees in April in what was a Grandview, Washington, vineyard. The new variety, bred and released by Washington State University, is being planted for the first time commercially this year. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Washington’s apple industry enters a new world this year as growers plant the first of what, in just three short years, will be 11 million trees or more of the popular new variety, Cosmic Crisp.

If all goes as planned, production from those trees will eclipse the total U.S. production of all but the top half-dozen or so apple varieties by 2022.

Rome and Empire? Both are likely to find themselves in Cosmic Crisp’s rearview mirror.

What about Honeycrisp? Growers might abandon their finicky friend if all they hear about Cosmic Crisp — it’s easier to grow and stores well — is true.

And those longstanding varieties that have powered the industry for years, Reds and Goldens? They’re likely to see continued declines in market share as annual Cosmic Crisp production increases.

Of course, that’s if all goes as planned.

Despite years of breeding efforts, test plantings and market research, there are no guarantees for growers considering an investment of $40,000 to $50,000 per acre to plant Cosmic Crisp.

For starters, there is always the weather; Mother Nature has a way of humbling experts. But there’s also fierce competition for produce shelf space from an increasing number of varieties and products.

Washington growers may dominate U.S. apple production, but they are bit players on the world stage; even though they produce 60 percent of the U.S. crop, U.S. growers overall account for just 3 percent of global production.

A future block of Cosmic Crisp is being prepared in Zillah, Washington, in May for some of the first commercially available trees to growers in the state. Some 11 million trees are expected to be in the ground in the next three years, making Cosmic Crisp the largest introduction of any apple variety to market in history. This block was days from planting, with Felix Schuhmann marking tree locations with fertilizer and trenching for irrigation lines. Photo by TJ Millinax, Good Fruit Grower.

A future block of Cosmic Crisp is being prepared in Zillah, Washington, in May for some of the first commercially available trees to growers in the state. Some 11 million trees are expected to be in the ground in the next three years, making Cosmic Crisp the largest introduction of any apple variety to market in history. This block was days from planting, with Felix Schuhmann marking tree locations with fertilizer and trenching for irrigation lines. Photo by TJ Millinax, Good Fruit Grower.

The risks are significant, and the pressure’s on. Cosmic Crisp, a Washington State University-bred cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp, isn’t just a new apple. It’s unique in several ways: No other new apple has had to be an immediate hit with consumers, at a high enough price, right out of the gate.

It’s often helpful to look at history to predict the future. It’s not as easy with this apple. Asked to name a similar product for comparison, one agricultural economist said he couldn’t think of any.

Growers also don’t control the ficklest factor of all: consumers.

“If, in the first few years, we turn off a bunch of consumers, it’s going to be like trying to to restart a bowling ball rolling it uphill,” said Robert Kershaw, president of Domex Superfresh Growers, a fifth-generation grower in Washington’s Yakima Valley.

He leads an industry advisory committee tasked with developing marketing standards for the new apple.

World production of key varieties, such as Gala, may have ramped up in their early years, he said, but never with a club variety and never just in Washington.

“This is a gamble. It’s not a sure thing. I’m personally shocked by how many trees are going in,” Kershaw said. “It’s just scary when you look at it from Washington’s perspective.” But, he stressed, it’s all about the consumer. “We’ll do everything we can on marketing and branding and everything else, but at the end of the day, the consumer will decide if they like it or not.”

Marketing comparisons shouldn’t be limited just to produce or even agricultural products, said Lynnell Brandt, president of Proprietary Variety Management, the company contracted by WSU to manage the variety, including licenses and marketing.

Rollouts in other food service industries can also serve as a guide, he said.

“What we hope to do is minimize the risk by, number one, having a wow, exciting apple, but also to have the industry as a whole representing it. That’s not been done before. But I think the possibilities are very large and exciting.”
 

In it together

So far, the industry is buying into the idea of a united front. In April, members of the marketing advisory group, which includes participation from packers and marketers who handle between 80 and 90 percent of the state’s production, agreed that Cosmic Crisp would be the primary brand for the apple, followed by Washington Apples, the label of the Washington Apple Commission.

The shippers themselves have agreed to remain almost invisible on any consumer packaging, an unheard-of position by the industry.

Jose Valencia covers a new Cosmic Crisp tree in a 13-acre block that was once a vineyard.  Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Jose Valencia covers a new Cosmic Crisp tree in a 13-acre block that was once a vineyard.  Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Kershaw acknowledged even he was opposed to the idea. “It went against what I wanted, but that’s OK, because we’re being guided by consensus. We’re doing what’s best for everyone, not just best for one,” he said.

Two years ago, Kershaw said, if he had asked the industry if such a move was possible, everybody would have said no.

“It’s never been done before. We’ve never had industry leaders working together like this before, on the same team. If anything is ever going to be a success, it’s going to be something like that, where everybody in the industry is rowing the boat in the same direction.”

Brandt credited the industry for uniting behind the apple. “If it’s all about the brand, then our ability collectively to promote it really gets amplified.”

Washington growers have a 10-year head start on Cosmic Crisp; international growers in a handful of countries that don’t ship to U.S. markets will be able to grow Cosmic Crisp sooner to protect the patent overseas, but growers elsewhere in the U.S. have to wait.

For that reason, it’s significant that the marketing committee is taking steps to protect the growers — something a united brand does, said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission.

“It’s a wonderful deal. It goes back to recognizing that it’s the grower that needs to be protected and have this opportunity to have this exciting apple, both domestically and internationally,” he said. “I think it’s a great direction.”
 

Failure is not an option

So what are the potential fatal flaws in this venture? Across the board, industry leaders point to one: overproduction.

Too much juvenile fruit, too much big fruit, could pose a problem, Kershaw said.

“All apples grow big when they’re young. That’s going to be difficult the first few years of production, making sure the quality is representative of the brand,” he said. “If the quality is good, and we’re able to make sure we don’t put bad tasting fruit and poor quality into the consumer’s hands, it’ll be a success.”

Dale Goldy, co-owner of Gold Crown Nursery in Quincy, Washington, has similar concerns, given the ample size of production projected by just the third year.

“We’re going to have this huge ramp up and nobody is going to know about it,” he said. “We’re going to advertise the heck out of it, and we’re going to educate people, and it’ll be great once we have enough people who know about it. But what about those intervening years while we build the market? What does it look like, from a grower-return standpoint?”

Goldy likened the experience to Fuji, an apple that was phenomenally successful for growers in the 1990s, because they were growing it for the export market.

But those high prices led to overplanting, creating a sudden need for a domestic market among consumers unfamiliar with the apple variety, and prices low enough that growers started losing money, he said.

Eventually, the industry educated domestic consumers about Fuji, but the situation doesn’t have to recur, he said.

“Until that point, there was no focused effort to go out and create consumer awareness. That’s where I think this is different. That Fuji example is the reason we have to have the marketing committee, and the growers have to support it,” he said.

Almost all newer varieties have a honeymoon period as distribution ramps up, but it is only when they stop expanding geographically that the normal forces of demand kick in, said world market analyst Desmond O’Rourke, director of Belrose Inc.

Honeycrisp and Pink Lady, for example, are two varieties that appear to have maintained a price premium after they have been widely distributed.

Miguel Vazquez pulls new irrigation lines in April for one of the first commercial Cosmic Crisp apple blocks planted in Washington. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Miguel Vazquez pulls new irrigation lines in April for one of the first commercial Cosmic Crisp apple blocks planted in Washington. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

“That suggests that consumer preferences are key to the sustainable expansion of a new variety,” he said. “There is no way to test that for Cosmic Crisp until it is widely distributed.”

Brandt of PVM also noted concerns about overproduction, but noted similarly that an important element in achieving success is “critical mass.”

“If you are going to have a true rollout, if you are really going to make a true presentation, you can’t just have a few boxes. You’ve got to have enough to try to penetrate enough stores as possible,” he said. “That requires a critical mass, or you can’t really present a global, new brand.”

Immediate impacts

Already, nurseries are seeing a decline in sales for varieties other than Cosmic Crisp across the board, though Honeycrisp sales appear to have taken the biggest hit early. Whether that will hold true in future years remains to be seen.

Cosmic Crisp tree sales also mean an immediate influx of cash to WSU’s breeding program for continued work to develop new varieties; 50 percent of the royalties, or half of the $1 license fee for each tree, goes to those efforts. Additional royalties apply to the packing and sale of each box of fruit.

That’s particularly important to Kershaw. Three years ago, frustrated that Washington growers were still relying so heavily on aging varieties and having to snag new varieties developed in other parts of the world, Kershaw told WSU officials they should be turning Washington into the Silicon Valley of apples.

“We should be pumping out the newest and best varieties that everybody else in the world wants,” he said. “I’m hoping this is just the beginning of a blueprint that will involve more teamwork with the industry, more R&D on new varieties, and that Washington will be known years down the road as not only the best place to grow fruit, but the best place to find new varieties.”

Article by Shannon Dininny, Good Fruit Grower

Should Cosmic Crisp have a “utility” grade?

Questions remain about color standards for new Washington State University variety.

Washington State University has spent two decades developing WA 38, now known as Cosmic Crisp. The first sizable commercial crop will be harvested in 2020. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Washington State University has spent two decades developing WA 38, now known as Cosmic Crisp. The first sizable commercial crop will be harvested in 2020. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

When it comes to grading standards for the new Washington State University apple variety Cosmic Crisp, Washington’s industry is already charting new territory.

Usually, grade standards for varieties are set by state statute, with input from the industry. Once those standards are set, they can be changed, but with time and effort.

Instead for Cosmic Crisp, a grading subcommittee of the industry’s marketing advisory group is establishing grading standards to allow the industry to be more responsive and flexible and meet the changing needs of the market.

Grading standards will be key to ensuring consumers receive a high-quality piece of fruit each time, said subcommittee chairman Dave Allan of Allan Bros., a longtime growing family in Washington’s Yakima Valley.

Already, minimum color standards remain one area of debate. There likely will be two grades for color, but there’s debate over whether there should be a so-called “utility grade,” he said.

Those on one side of the argument believe selling a “utility” color grade could diminish the Cosmic Crisp brand early in the marketing push, while others believe that if people and markets are willing to buy it, why not service them, he said. “That’s really a fantastic debate. We don’t have an answer yet,” Allan said.

Most standards, such as for bruising or russeting, will likely remain the same as other varieties.

But the subcommittee is seeking some answers from researchers before deciding on final grade standards:

  • Should the industry be marketing apples from 2-year-old trees? Allan said the subcommittee wants researchers to make some recommendations about the quality of apples from young trees.
     
  • Should they set a minimum harvest maturity for shipment? The subcommittee is hoping researchers can provide information on what would be the best indicator — starch, soluble solids, background color — to ensure that consumers receive a good tasting apple from the first shipment of the season through the last.
     
  • What is the eating quality of apples at different color rates, say 60 percent, 40 percent and 20 percent color? That calls for a tasting panel. If eating quality is the same for all three color standards, great, Allan said. “But at 25 percent red, if two-thirds say, ‘That doesn’t taste good,’ we’ve got some good information to say we shouldn’t be marketing those apples because it doesn’t deliver the brand.”

The market is established on the retail shelf, Allan said, adding that he has high hopes. “I think it’s a good enough apple that it will become one of the major apples,” he said. “I’ve worked with quite a few new varieties, and I rate it up there pretty high.”

Article by Shannon Dininny, Good Fruit Grower.

Washington apple industry’s new super star

The Cosmic Crisp has all the makings of a super star and will replace Red Delicious and other varieties whose popularity has flagged in recent years.

Royalities from the Cosmic Crisp™ will help fund Washington State University programs such as apple breeding. Photo by Dan Wheat, Capital Press.

Royalities from the Cosmic Crisp™ will help fund Washington State University programs such as apple breeding. Photo by Dan Wheat, Capital Press.

The Washington state apple industry is re-inventing the way it does business. The industry is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a radically different strategy for introducing a new variety of apple, the Cosmic Crisp.

A cross between the Enterprise and the Honeycrisp varieties, Cosmic Crisp is easier to grow and store than most other varieties. Most importantly, consumer focus groups have given it top ratings for taste and texture.

The Cosmic Crisp has all the makings of a super star and will replace Red Delicious and other varieties whose popularity has flagged in recent years.

Apple varieties typically take many years before they reach a critical mass. The Cosmic Crisp’s introduction will shift that process to fast-forward. This spring about 50 Washington growers chosen in a drawing planted 630,000 Cosmic Crisp trees. About 10 million more trees will go into the ground in the next two years.

In 2019 Cosmic Crisp will make its commercial debut with 200,000, 40-pound boxes. That will jump to 1.9 million boxes the next year, 5 million in 2021 and 9 million in 2022, marking the fastest ramp-up of a new apple variety in history.

Ultimately, industry leaders hope to sell 30 million boxes or more each year.

The main question that remains is price. Assuming consumers are willing to pay a premium price similar to what they pay for Honeycrisp, the new apple will become a success. But even at lower prices the Cosmic Crisp will be a boon to the industry.

The Cosmic Crisp is different because it was developed by Washington State University breeders. That allows WSU and the state’s apple industry to retain control of it and the royalties it generates.

The royalty is $1 for every tree sold and 4.75 percent of the price of every box that sells for more than $20. One-fifth of the royalty will go to commercializing and promoting the apple.

Most importantly, half of the royalty will go to WSU plant breeding programs, with most of that going to apple breeding. The remaining royalty will go to the WSU Office of Commercialization, the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences and the breeders.

This investment in turn will establish a bigger pipeline for developing more new apple varieties in the future.

Our hope is the Cosmic Crisp will be a roaring success, but our further hope is that success will provide the resources that allow WSU’s plant breeders to develop important new varieties of apples and other crops.

One apple industry leader said the Cosmic Crisp could help Washington become “the Silicon Valley of apple breeding.”

That’s a bold statement, but it’s also one that’s achievable.

Article by Capital Press

Cosmic tips to growing WA 38

Stefano Musacchi, Washington State University horticulturist and endowed chair in tree fruit physiology and management, discusses fruit spacing of the Cosmic Crisp in September at the Sunrise research orchard near Wenatchee.. Photo by Ross Courtney, Good Fruit Grower.

Stefano Musacchi, Washington State University horticulturist and endowed chair in tree fruit physiology and management, discusses fruit spacing of the Cosmic Crisp in September at the Sunrise research orchard near Wenatchee.. Photo by Ross Courtney, Good Fruit Grower.

The first commercial trees were planted this spring of the new apple variety WA 38, following nearly a decade of research into the horticultural traits at four research plantings and the storage behavior of the fruit.

Developed by Washington State University and marketed under the brand name Cosmic Crisp, the WA 38 has unique behavior compared to most scion varieties.

Those of us who’ve worked with the trees in the field have found the variety to be grower friendly, but for those growers who’ve just planted their trees, here are the top five tips for the first year:

Never forget that WA 38 is a Type 4 tree that produces a lot of blind wood, and growers don’t want to sacrifice productive space to blind wood, particularly in a fruit wall. To avoid blind wood, you should…

  • Prune. The variety has the potential to produce feathers, and you should cut them back to four to six buds, cutting the terminal 1 foot from the top of the central leader.
     
  • Never bend the branches below 90 degrees, which both creates blind wood and the potential for the tree to become a biennial producer very quickly. WA 38, in particular, has a huge capacity to produce flowers, and because it’s producing flowers on one-year wood, growers could see an excess of flowers one year, followed by a dramatic reduction the following year.
     
  • Don’t crop in the first year. If you have a wonderful tree, wait until at least the second year to crop.
     
  • And remember, WA 38 usually sets just a single fruit or two fruit per cluster. That means thinning has to be really targeted, on the basis of flower distribution and fruit set.

It’s also important to remember that WA 38 requires a little bit more space, about 10 percent more, compared to other varieties. It’s a vigorous tree and needs adequate light for the bi-color fruit to color, so prune to allow more space to reduce the number of leaves and the amount of shade in the canopy. •

Article by Stefano Musacchi on Good Fruit Grower


Stefano Musacchi, Ph.D., is an associate professor and endowed chair in tree fruit physiology and management at Washington State University in Wenatchee, Washington. He can be reached at stefano.musacchi@wsu.edu

A New Apple to Get Your Teeth Into

After 30 years’ experimentation, farmers in Washington state are ready for the biggest ever planting of a new variety of apple.

How do you like them apples? Lead scientist Dr Kate Evans at Washington State University’s Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center. Photograph: Ted S. Warren/AP

How do you like them apples? Lead scientist Dr Kate Evans at Washington State University’s Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center. Photograph: Ted S. Warren/AP

Nearly 30 years ago, Dr Bruce Barritt was jeered when he branded the apple industry in Washington state a dinosaur for growing obsolete varieties such as red and golden delicious. Now, farmers in the state, where 70% of US apples are grown, are ripping up millions of trees and replacing them with a new variety, the cosmic crisp, which Barritt, a horticulturalist, has created in the decades since.

With 12m trees to be planted by 2020, and the first harvest of apples due in the shops in 2019, it is the biggest ever launch of a new apple. Around 10m 40lb boxes are expected to be produced in the next four years, compared with the usual 3-5m for a new variety. It’s a gamble for growers: replanting costs up to $50,000 per acre, so the cosmic crisp needs to fetch top dollar to make their investment worthwhile.

Barritt began his quest for the perfect apple in the 1980s, after being hired by Washington State University (WSU).

“I had two projects,” he says. “The orchards being grown were inefficient – big trees that required ladders, poor fruit quality because of shade in the trees… That was a problem I could tackle. But I thought the most important problem was that, at the time in Washington, 90% of the crop was red delicious and golden delicious – they’re not crisp, juicy or flavourful. I was giving a talk to 2,000 industry people and I told them these were obsolete. It didn’t go down well. If I asked them why they were still growing these varieties, they’d say ‘Because we grow them better than anybody else.’ That wasn’t good enough, because the consumer wasn’t happy.”

Barritt was convinced better varieties had to be developed, and made available to every farmer in the state (new varieties such as jazz and ambrosia are often only licensed to small clubs of growers). He spent six years lobbying the industry in Washington and the university for money to fund a breeding programme, which began in 1994.

“It’s a traditional breeding programme, not genetically modified; it’s hybridising existing varieties,” he explains. “All the traits important in an apple – the flavour, juiciness, crispness – are controlled by many genes. Our knowledge of genetics is not good enough to collect all those genes together and change them with genetic modification.”

Sweet but not too sweet. proof is in the tasting for the cosmic crisp. Photograph: Ted S Warren/AP

Sweet but not too sweet. proof is in the tasting for the cosmic crisp. Photograph: Ted S Warren/AP

Barritt created thousands of seedlings by cross-pollinating the blossoms of parent trees. “When they come into bearing, we walk the long rows and bite, chew and spit, because you can’t eat a lot of apples at once – your taste buds lose their sensitivity. The majority you bite into are terrible, but eventually you come up with ones that are good.”

The cosmic crisp, so named because of its yellow star-like flecks on a burgundy skin, is a cross between the honeycrisp and the enterprise. “Honeycrisp’s claim to fame is its crispness; it also has good sugar and acid and texture. Enterprise is large, full-coloured, stores well and is firm. It’s got good acidity and flavour in general.” Enterprise is also known for its resistance to fire blight.

The tree selected was known as WA38. “It was promising, so we made 15 trees and planted those in three locations in central Washington, and looked at those for three or four years of fruiting. We still liked it, so we made 200 trees of the same one and planted it in four sites in commercial orchards. We wanted to see how they performed in the hands of growers.”

Around this time, Barritt retired. Dr Kate Evans, a British horticulturalist who had been leading breeding programmes for East Malling Research in Kent, took over.

Testing of the apple continued and it was patented in 2014, with Barritt named as the “inventor”. For the next 10 years, it will only be available to US farmers in Washington, because they helped fund the breeding programme.

Evans said: “Outside the US, new varieties go through a variety rights application – you test them in different locations and compare them to varieties out there so that it can be seen they’re different and novel. In the US they don’t do that; it’s a plant patent system – like [with] any other invention, you submit an application that describes it in detail.”

Every cosmic crisp tree is a clone of the WA38 “mother tree”, which remains in WSU’s research orchard near Wenatchee. Buds from one tree are grafted on to existing apple tree roots. These buds grow into copies of the original tree.

To meet demand, nurseries are reproducing the trees on a massive scale. This year, there were only 600,000 available, which were allocated to growers using a draw.

Stemilt Growers, a fruit company in Wenatchee, has planted 180,000 trees. Its president, West Mathison, said: “The apple has got great flavour. The crunch is really consistent. There’s more strength in the connective tissue of the cells than the cell walls themselves, so your teeth break through the cells and flavour, and juice is released. It has a unique flavour – sweet but not too sweet, and a little bit of acid, so it has some complexity. It’s also got a really nice storage life. I’m planting it on an old golden delicious block. Red and golden are falling out of favour with the market,” Mathison said. “It’s definitely a gamble. We don’t know yet what the retail price will be.”

Barritt, however, is confident the apple will be a winner. “This variety has been tested in the research setting, in grower orchards, in cold storage and with consumers more than any other apple in the world,” he says. “I’m not nervous.”

Article by Lucy Rock, The Guardian

Growers pin big hopes for Cosmic Crisp

Washington apple growers planted 630,000 new Cosmic Crisp apple trees this spring and will plant an estimated 10 million more trees over the next two years to revolutionize variety offerings of the nation’s largest apple-producing state.

Chris Anderson of Manson, Wash., on June 9 with the Cosmic Crisp™ brand apples trees he planted in April and May. He spent about $20,000 on 2,200 trees and hopes they bring him good returns. About 50 growers, selected in a drawing ,also planted Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees this spring. Photo by Dan Wheat.

Chris Anderson of Manson, Wash., on June 9 with the Cosmic Crisp™ brand apples trees he planted in April and May. He spent about $20,000 on 2,200 trees and hopes they bring him good returns. About 50 growers, selected in a drawing ,also planted Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees this spring. Photo by Dan Wheat.

MANSON, Wash. — Chris Anderson is in his 37th year of operating a small apple orchard once owned by his father on the north shore of Lake Chelan.

He’s among more than 50 Washington growers selected in a drawing for this spring’s first planting of the Cosmic Crisp, a new apple variety that industry leaders hope will usher in a new era.

It’s a $275 million to $500 million risk on an apple the industry hopes consumers will love. Plans call for it to replace the Red Delicious as the new Washington state apple and be the foundation for higher and steadier financial returns for decades to come.

Apples are big business in Washington state. They are the top agricultural commodity, grossing $2.4 billion annually. About 65 percent of the apples grown in the U.S. come from Washington orchards.

Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees near East Wenatchee, Wash., on June 9. These were planted a year ago by Van Well Nursery and are certified mother trees. Cuttings from them will be taken each fall for use in budding new Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees onto rootstock. Photo by Dan Wheat.

Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees near East Wenatchee, Wash., on June 9. These were planted a year ago by Van Well Nursery and are certified mother trees. Cuttings from them will be taken each fall for use in budding new Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees onto rootstock. Photo by Dan Wheat.

For three weeks in April and May, Anderson laid out neat rows and hauled trees and fertilizer, helping his three workers plant by hand 2,200 Cosmic Crisp trees on a little over 2 acres. Elsewhere in Central Washington, other growers planted up to 20,000 trees apiece, mostly by machine.

Anderson is optimistic about the new apple.

“It’s something being heavily promoted, sounded like it might be fun. And, yes, I’m looking for better returns,” said Anderson, 64, who with his wife, Sally, runs the orchard.

Anderson tore out Fuji apple trees last fall to make room for his Cosmic Crisp.

“Fuji are very late and I don’t have a long enough growing season. There have been years I picked them in the snow and years they froze on the trees,” Anderson said.

Unprecedented plan

This rapid roll-out marks a first for the industry.

Ricardo Santacruz reaches for a Cosmic Crisp™ limb of buds as Eduardo Morales gets ready to wrap the bud. They are part of a crew of 45 budding Cosmic Crisp™ buds onto rootstock trees at Willow Drive Nursery near Ephrata, Wash., on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Dan Wheat.

Ricardo Santacruz reaches for a Cosmic Crisp™ limb of buds as Eduardo Morales gets ready to wrap the bud. They are part of a crew of 45 budding Cosmic Crisp™ buds onto rootstock trees at Willow Drive Nursery near Ephrata, Wash., on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Dan Wheat.

“The 5 million is an extremely high number for any one variety of apple tree to be planted in any given year in the state or nationwide,” said Neal Manly, managing partner of Regal Fruit, an apple breeding and variety management company in Ephrata, Wash.

According to Manly’s survey of the state’s nurseries, 40 percent of the trees planted next year will be Cosmic Crisp. Only Red Delicious and Honeycrisp reached 40 percent of annual plantings in the past and Gala peaked at 25 percent.

Newly planted trees produce few apples in their first two years, so Anderson and other growers will knock them off early so the tree’s energy will go toward growth.

Lynnell Brandt, president of Proprietary Variety Management, a Yakima, Wash., company WSU hired to help manage the commercialization of Cosmic Crisp, estimates that nearly 200,000, 40-pound boxes of Cosmic Crisp apples will debut in U.S. stores from the 2019 crop. That will jump to 1.9 million boxes in 2020, 5 million in 2021 and 9 million in 2022.

At the Washington State Tree Fruit Association meeting last December, Robert Kershaw, president of Domex Superfresh Growers in Yakima, said such an accelerated ramp-up has never before been tried. He called it “insanity” and a “gamble” that could end in reward or failure and said it would take the whole industry pulling together to write the Cosmic Crisp success story.

West Mathison, president of Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, said the fastest switch in the consumption of varieties will happen over a five-year span that will “blow people’s hair back.” In the last two seasons, prices for Red Delicious and Gala have crashed because of too much volume and loss of consumer popularity.

Brandt anticipates Cosmic Crisp will replace large amounts of Reds and Gala in relatively short order. Older strains of Fuji, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Cameo and Jonagold and even Honeycrisp numbers will diminish, he said.

The new mix will be Cosmic Crisp and proprietary varieties, along with some Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith and Honeycrisp.

Ricardo Sanchez notches a rootstock stem for a bud from the Cosmic Crisp™ limbs in his left hand. Eduardo Morales, behind him, wraps the bud in plastic at Willow Drive Nursery near Ephrata, Wash., on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Dan Wheat.

Ricardo Sanchez notches a rootstock stem for a bud from the Cosmic Crisp™ limbs in his left hand. Eduardo Morales, behind him, wraps the bud in plastic at Willow Drive Nursery near Ephrata, Wash., on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Dan Wheat.

“We are hopeful Cosmic Crisp can be the new flagship of the industry. We have that hope because it’s such a good apple and because the entire industry will be working to promote the brand in a very positive light and the industry has some exclusivity in the North American market, which can enhance the focus,” Brandt said. Washington growers will be the sole source of the new apple in North America for the first decade.

Kershaw heads a committee of most of the state’s major tree fruit companies advising Brandt on marketing.

“It’s not without conflict but conflict is good to sort out all the issues and have a good healthy debate and to make sure we are looking at everything from all angles and perspectives,” Kershaw said.

The committee has reached a consensus on every main decision, including uniform packaging. Grading standards are next and will need to be tightly managed to ensure a successful launch, he said.

Financial hopes

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Honeycrisp is a big money-maker for the industry, but its margins have begun to narrow as volume has increased. It’s common for Honeycrisp to sell at wholesale in the $50-$70 per box range while most other unmanaged varieties do well to reach $30. Break-even for orchards is typically about $17 a box.

For Cosmic Crisp, “the expectation is Honeycrisp pricing, but the consumer will decide. If they sell well at high prices, prices will stay high. If they don’t, prices will need to come down to generate more momentum,” Kershaw said.

Red Delicious, the volume king for 82 years, peaked at 61.4 million boxes in 1994 but was still at 39.5 million boxes this year, almost one-third of the state’s apple production.

While the volume of Red Delicious has held up, its price hasn’t. It was selling for $11 to $14.90 per box for standard grade, medium size on June 7. In 2014, it bottomed out at $8 per box. At those prices, growers make no money and packer-shipper-marketers, who get their cut first, make little to nothing.

Grower costs and packing, shipping and marketing costs all vary, but Anderson, the Manson grower, said on a $30 box of fruit the grower makes one-third and on a $50 box the grower can make two-thirds.

Even the popular Honeycrisp has not performed well for him.

“I have not done well with Honeycrisp,” he says. “My packouts are poor.”

Cosmic Crisp should provide better returns than Honeycrisp because production costs will be lower and storage and packouts — after cull apples are taken out — will be better, Brandt said. He believes the new apple will top 30 million boxes annually.

If those numbers hold true and the price stays high, the payoff for the industry would be impressive.

In round numbers, just a 10 million-box crop of Cosmic Crisp that sells for $30 per box would gross $300 million; at $50 per box, the crop would gross $500 million.

WSU will get a royalty of 4.75 percent of every box that sells for more than $20. On a $500 million crop, 4.75 percent is $23.7 million. There’s also a $1 royalty on every tree sold for planting. Trees generally cost $9, including the royalty. On 10 million trees sold, the royalty is $10 million.

Of those total royalties, around 20 percent will go for commercialization costs including patenting and Proprietary Variety Management’s fee, said James Moyer, associate dean of research at WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. Neither he nor PVM’s Brandt would disclose the management fee.

Of the remaining royalties, 10 percent will go to the WSU Office of Commercialization; 10 percent will go to the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences; 30 percent will be shared by the breeders; and 50 percent will go to WSU plant breeding programs with a majority earmarked for apple breeding, Moyer said.

“We’re discussing ways in which we could create an endowment or some other vehicle to keep the apple breeding program secure for many years to come,” Moyer said.

“We are extremely proud of the breeding program and the excitement it has generated in the industry and we are encouraged by how the industry has come together to cooperate and guide us in the licensing, marketing and developing standards,” Moyer said.

Article by Dan Wheat, Capital Press

Trees for new "Cosmic Crisp" apple going into the ground

PROSSER, Wash – Hundreds of thousands of trees bearing a brand new variety of apple are going into the ground in Eastern Washington. It's the first major apple variety ever developed in Washington.

It's called the Cosmic Crisp -- a cross between an Enterprise and Honey Crisp apple. "I think it's going to be one of the major apples in our industry," says Dave Allen, of Allen Brothers Fruit. He has been growing and testing the Cosmic Crisp for about six years now.

The apple was developed by WSU researchers, and this spring 600 thousand commercial trees are being planted in orchards in Eastern Washington. "Well it's a very wonderful apple. It's a sweet, tart apple, it stores a long time, it doesn't brown very much and it's a very delightful apple," says Allen.

There are orders for five million trees next spring, three million the year after. WSU says that is unprecedented.

At Yokes Fresh Market in Richland, produce manager Chris Campbell thinks the public is ready for a new apple. "It would be very exciting to taste it and see how it does. It's always exciting to get something new and we're all like that. Something new? Just gotta try it," says Campbell.

The Cosmic Crisp is medium sized, crisp and sweet with a hint of tartness. The "Crisp" comes from it's Honey Crisp roots. The "Cosmic" comes from the white speckling on the apple. "And it looks like it's the stars, so that's why they named it Cosmic," says Dave Allen.

For at least the next 10 years Washington apple growers will have the exclusive rights to grow the apples. As for when you can bite in, the first Cosmic Crisps will hit the market in fall of 2019.

Article by Kristi Paulus, KEPR TV

New apple varieties and new orchards come to Kittitas

Recently planted apples trees cover a hillside along Payne Road in the Badger Pocket area, Tuesday, May 30, 2017. Photo by Brian Myrick, Daily Record.

Recently planted apples trees cover a hillside along Payne Road in the Badger Pocket area, Tuesday, May 30, 2017. Photo by Brian Myrick, Daily Record.

Apple orchards continue to expand in Kittitas County as fruit companies buy hay fields and replant them with new, and never before seen, varieties of fruit.

Recently planted apples trees cover a hillside along Payne Road in the Badger Pocket area, Tuesday, May 30, 2017. Photo by Brian Myrick, Daily Record.

Recently planted apples trees cover a hillside along Payne Road in the Badger Pocket area, Tuesday, May 30, 2017. Photo by Brian Myrick, Daily Record.

A big reason for the change is because of the weather conditions in Kittitas County, which are milder than areas like Yakima, said Rafael Garcia, area manager for the Zirkle Fruit Company in Kittitas County. Honeycrisp and similar varieties grow too big in hotter weather.

“The quality of the fruit that we’re picking is really good and that’s why we’re putting more orchards in here,” Garcia said. “Because the summer is shorter and we can control the size better.”

Zirkle Fruit Company has around 600 acres of land in Kittitas County and the company is putting in new orchards up on Payne Road, he said.

Next year the company might also start planting cosmic crisp in Kittitas County, Garcia said. A new variety of apple created by Washington State University that is a cross between the enterprise and a honeycrisp varieties. The company plans on establishing around 100 acres next year, but hasn’t decided the trees’ exact locations.

Cosmic Crisp™ brand apples were created by the Washington State University tree fruit breeding program by crossing an enterprise apple with a honeycrisp. The apples trees will be released in a limited number to growers in 2017.

Cosmic Crisp™ brand apples were created by the Washington State University tree fruit breeding program by crossing an enterprise apple with a honeycrisp. The apples trees will be released in a limited number to growers in 2017.

Cosmic Crisp

The cosmic crisp apple was created by Washington State University’s tree fruit breeding program and the research was funded by Washington state apple growers, said Kathryn Grandy, director of marketing and operations with Propriety Variety Management.

Propriety Variety Management was selected by Washington State University to market the new apple, she said. The variety has a more firm texture and crisp bite and so far has received positive reviews. It will be grown exclusively by Washington farmers.

“When I’ve eaten a cosmic crisp one of the things I like personally the skin is firm where it protects the apple,” Grandy said. “It’s got really crispy, firm, white flesh. You sink your teeth in it there is an audible crunch and then the burst of juice.”

The apple gets its name from the yellow speckles on its dark red skin, which almost look like a starburst pattern.

The main benefits to the fruit is that it stores longer than other varieties and is less susceptible to diseases like water core and bitter pit, she said.

“People really love red apples and they will be available year round and in a large enough supply that we can really fill orders with the large retailers across the country,” Grandy said.

Washington apple growers needed a new variety of apple to excite the market, she said. Interest in types like red delicious has started to die off, but Washington state still produces close to 70 percent of all the apples in the United States.

“Growers are pulling the trees out because the consumer taste buds have changed a lot and people want a firmer apple, a crisper apple and far juicer and sweet,” Grandy said.

There is a lot of potential for the apple to take off in markets both domestically and internationally, she said. Washington remains a prime region due to its healthy soils, warm days and cool nights.

About 600,000 to 700,000 of the apple trees will be planted this year. Next year that number will go up to 1.5 million and the trend will continue for several years to come.

Article by Tony Buhr, Daily Record

This Is What It Looks Like When A New Apple Comes To Town

Apricot trees are removed to make way for Cosmic Crisp. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

Apricot trees are removed to make way for Cosmic Crisp. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

Apple growers in Washington state, who dominate American apple production, are starting to plant a new kind of apple. It's the fastest launch of a new variety in history.

These farmers have been looking for a new variety to grow. Older types of apples, like Red Delicious, have fallen out of favor among American consumers. So growers are ripping out old fruit trees — in this case, apricot trees — to make way for an apple variety called Cosmic Crisp. It's the most successful result so far of an apple breeding effort that Bruce Barritt began at Washington State University more than 20 years ago.

Bruce Baritt, retired apple breeder. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

Bruce Baritt, retired apple breeder. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

Barritt selected the tree called WA 38 — now branded as Cosmic Crisp — from among thousands of seedings that he created by cross-pollinating the blossoms of parent trees. Cosmic Crisp, he says, preserves its taste better than any other variety during months of storage. "Crispness, juiciness, acidity, sugar; all that combined just doesn't exist in any other variety," he says.

Cosmic Crisp was just released for commercial planting, and this spring, apple growers are planting all the trees that they can get their hands on. They've reportedly ordered 12 million Cosmic Crisp trees for planting over the next few years.

Workers and freshly planted Cosmic Crisp trees in an orchard owned by McDougall and Sons, near Wenatchee, WA. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

Workers and freshly planted Cosmic Crisp trees in an orchard owned by McDougall and Sons, near Wenatchee, WA. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

Replanting can cost more than $50,000 per acre. Farmers say that they'll need premium prices for these apples in order to recoup that investment. If Cosmic Crisp apples sell only for the same price as, say, Gala apples, "it'll be a wreck," says farmer Jan Luebber. So these new plantings are a big gamble for apple growers.

The Cosmic Crisp mother tree. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

The Cosmic Crisp mother tree. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

Every Cosmic Crisp tree is derived from this original "mother tree," which still stands where it was planted 20 years ago, in a research orchard managed by Washington State University. It's been reproduced through old-fashioned cloning techniques, grafting buds from one tree onto existing apple tree roots. Those buds grow into copies of the original tree.

Tree nurseries like Willow Drive Nursery, in the town of Ephrata, Wash., play a key role in the Cosmic Crisp launch. They reproduce these trees on a massive scale, growing new trees from each bud that forms on existing trees in their "mother orchard." Each fall, nurseries dig up these small trees and move them into cold storage, ready for planting in orchards the following spring.

Cosmic Crisp trees ready for planting at Willow Drive Nursery in Ephrata, WA. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

Cosmic Crisp trees ready for planting at Willow Drive Nursery in Ephrata, WA. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

The first Cosmic Crisp apples will be available for sale in the fall of 2019. Within a few years, Washington's apple growers may know whether they bet they've placed on this new variety will pay off.

Apples put out for taste tests are (from left): Honeycrisp, Jazz, Gala, Red Delicious, and Cosmic Crisp. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

Apples put out for taste tests are (from left): Honeycrisp, Jazz, Gala, Red Delicious, and Cosmic Crisp. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

Article by Dan Charles, Northwest Public Radio

Washington Apple Growers Sink Their Teeth Into The New Cosmic Crisp

A worker takes a break after planting young Cosmic Crisp trees in an orchard near Wenatchee, WA. Photo by Dan Charles,NPR.

A worker takes a break after planting young Cosmic Crisp trees in an orchard near Wenatchee, WA. Photo by Dan Charles,NPR.

Get ready for a new kind of apple. It's called Cosmic Crisp, and farmers in Washington state, who grow 70 percent of the country's apples, are planting these trees by the millions. The apples themselves, dark red in color with tiny yellow freckles, will start showing up in stores in the fall of 2019.

Scott McDougall is one of the farmers who's making a big bet on Cosmic Crisp.

"It goes back to believing in the apple," he says.

"You believe?" I ask.

"I believe!" he says, and chuckles.

Planting has begun at one of his company's orchards near the city of Wenatchee. It's a spectacular site — a giant natural amphitheater in the hills above the Columbia River.

As we watch, a slow-moving tractor slices open the bare earth, and two men carefully lower delicate tree roots into the opening, one tree every three feet. These are among the first of about 400,000 Cosmic Crisp trees that McDougall and Sons expects to plant over the next few years. Across the state, 12 million of the trees have been ordered. That first wave of plantings will deliver about 5 million 40-pound boxes of Cosmic Crisp apples to grocery stores.

"Hitting 5 million boxes right away, that's never happened with any other variety that we've ever planted in Washington state," McDougall says.

These apples put out for a taste test are (from left): Honeycrisp,  Jazz, Gala, Red Delicious, and Cosmic Crisp. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR

These apples put out for a taste test are (from left): Honeycrisp,  Jazz, Gala, Red Delicious, and Cosmic Crisp. Photo by Dan Charles, NPR

For comparison, it took the popular variety Honeycrisp 20 years after it was introduced to reach that level of production.

Why this phenomenal success? First of all, the apple tastes great, even after months in storage, McDougall says. But that's not the only reason.

A lot of apple farmers in Washington have been looking to switch from the varieties that they've grown for decades — in particular, Red Delicious. That variety is still the single most widely grown apple in the state, but it's fallen out of favor with American consumers. Prices have sometimes fallen so low that growers simply discarded part of their harvest.

Many potential alternatives, though, have problems of their own. Honeycrisp is loved by consumers but is difficult to grow. Many other hot new apples, like Opal or Jazz, are only available to small clubs of growers.

Cosmic Crisp, though, is open to every farmer in Washington state. The tree is vigorous and produces lots of fruit. Also, it's ready for harvest at that same time as Red Delicious, which is a crucial consideration for big-time apple growers who are trying to coordinate the harvest of several different varieties.

"You've kind of got the best of all worlds," McDougall says.

Patent holder Bruce Barritt stops by the mother of all Cosmic Crisp trees. Cosmic Crisp was the result of a breeding project at Washington State University in the 1990s.  Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

Patent holder Bruce Barritt stops by the mother of all Cosmic Crisp trees. Cosmic Crisp was the result of a breeding project at Washington State University in the 1990s.  Photo by Dan Charles, NPR.

The man who's listed on a patent as the inventor of Cosmic Crisp, Bruce Barritt, drove five hours from Canada to see these trees go into the ground.

Barritt is 74 years old now. He takes pictures of the newly planted trees like a proud parent.

"They are my children," he says. "Just like your kids who are 18 years old, we don't know a lot about them yet. Four years from now, we'll know whether they're the real thing."

Two decades ago, when Barritt was working for Washington State University, he persuaded the university and the state's apple industry to pay for an effort to create new and tastier apple varieties.

"We knew that it would be about 20 years before we had anything of significance — if we were lucky!" he says.

Washington state hired a private company to handle the commercial launch of the new apple. They named it Cosmic Crisp because the apple's flecks of yellow reminded someone of stars in the sky. Photo by Bruce Baritt.

Washington state hired a private company to handle the commercial launch of the new apple. They named it Cosmic Crisp because the apple's flecks of yellow reminded someone of stars in the sky. Photo by Bruce Baritt.

He started the work of apple breeding — first taking pollen from blossoms of some trees and fertilizing the blossoms of others, creating thousands of new genetic combinations. Then he collected the apples that resulted from this cross-fertilization and grew new little trees from their seeds. He watched those trees produce their own apples, all different from one another. "Some green ones, some yellow ones, some red ones. Some little ones, some big ones," Barritt recalls.

Barritt says he'd spend days walking those rows, searching for a superior apple. Hundreds of times each day, he'd take a bite. "Your taste sensors, sugar and acid, kick in, and you'll either enjoy it or you won't. And then you spit it out," he says.

He doesn't remember the day in 1997 when he took a bite of an apple from the tree that was labeled WA 38. But it must have made a good impression because he and his colleagues kept it around.

It's still there, in a research orchard near Wenatchee. Most of the orchard is filled with rows of young seedlings, the latest products of Washington state's breeding program. At the far end of the orchard, though, stands the original WA 38 "mother tree."

Every one of the millions of Cosmic Crisp trees now growing in orchards and nurseries is a clone of this tree.

Barritt and his colleagues duplicated it the old-fashioned way, cutting buds from its branches and splicing, or grafting, those buds onto existing apple tree roots. The buds grew into new WA 38 trees.

For almost two decades, people in the apple industry studied those trees, tasting the apples. The more they learned, the more they liked it.

Tom Auvil, who worked for the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, says that when they took boxes of different varieties to events with apple growers, it was the box of WA 38 that got cleaned out. "This happened every year," he says. "We never bring any WA 38 home."

Auvil says the apple has that sought-after crisp, cracking sensation when you bite into it. It has sweetness and acid; almost a sensory overload for your tongue.

Washington state hired a private company to handle the commercial launch of the new apple. They named it Cosmic Crisp because the apple's flecks of yellow reminded someone of stars in the sky. Farmers finally got a chance to plant these trees in their own orchards this spring. For now, it's only available to farmers in Washington, since they helped support the breeding program that created it.

The flood of orders has astonished almost everybody in the industry. In fact, it's provoking some anxiety. After all, consumers haven't even seen Cosmic Crisp yet. Nobody really knows if they'll like it.

Tom Auvil, who's been a Cosmic Crisp booster, calls the wave of orders "just an amazing level of investment. I just hope somebody doesn't drive up my driveway and say, 'You got me into this, now get me out of it!' "

A few years from now, when stores are full of Cosmic Crisp apples, those farmers will find out whether this was a smart bet.

Article by Northwest Public Radio (NPR)

The Buzz is Growing for Cosmic Crisp

WA 38 during a pre-harvest preview of the variety in Prosser, Washington on September 17, 2014/ Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

WA 38 during a pre-harvest preview of the variety in Prosser, Washington on September 17, 2014/ Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Cosmic Crisp has been a huge topic among growers for years, and now the variety is gaining profile in the general media.

National Public Radio sent a reporter to Wenatchee, Washington, to interview growers and researchers about the apple. That’s helpful for Washington growers, who will have nine million Cosmic Crisp trees growing within three years.

Cosmic Crisp is exciting in several ways, for what it means to the industry and for its expected success with consumers. How marketers will engage consumers is described in our forthcoming June issue. Meanwhile, here’s what NPR said about the apple.

Article by Casey Corr, Good Fruit Grower

Cosmic Crisp apples will revolutionize industry, farmers say

Farmers in the Pacific Northwest say the hottest new apple variety is really out-of-this-world.

The Cosmic Crisp, named for the yellow star-like specks that dot its deep red skin, has become extremely popular with growers in Washington, who have already planted upwards of 12 million Cosmic Crisp apple trees across the state, reports NPR.

In fact, Washington farmers are so invested in the Cosmic Crisp, that they plan to deliver their first shipment of the new variety — 5 million 40-pound boxes — to supermarkets in 2019.

To put that into perspective, it took farmers around 20 years to reach the same output of Honeycrisp apples after they first hit the market.

"Hitting 5 million boxes right away, that's never happened with any other variety that we've ever planted in Washington state," said Scott McDougall, an apple farmer who spoke with NPR.

But why are farmers so confident consumers will love the Cosmic Crisp?

Well, for starters, experts say they’re incredibly crisp, and deliver the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity-- plus they're "slower to brown" than other apple varieties after they're cut. What’s more, the apple trees themselves are hardier than other varieties, making them easier to grow and harvest. They also bear fruit at the same time as Red Delicious apples — which have grown less and less popular among consumers — making them a prime candidate for a replacement.

And when it comes to longevity, Cosmic Crisps are reported to retain their flavor for up to a year when stored properly. 

However, developing the Cosmic Crisp apple wasn’t an easy undertaking. Bruce Barritt, who holds the patent on the apple variety, started working on the Cosmic Crisp over 20 years ago as part of an experiment for Washington State University fruit breeding program.

Now, Barritt is just hoping his efforts will pay off.

"They are my children," Barritt told NPR. "Just like your kids who are 18 years old, we don't know a lot about them yet. Four years from now, we'll know whether they're the real thing."

Article by Fox News

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Blind Renaissance

Since 1972, Blind Renaissance has an extensive history of creating the strong visual identity and cohesive media presence demanded by the sophistication of marketing environments. We design engaging, client-specific promotional materials by combining an educated artistic sensibility, knowledge of advertising trends in multiple industries and the ability to appropriately utilize new design, web and printing technology.

New 150-acre block for Honeycrisp and Cosmic Crisp apple varieties

The trees are in bloom, the bees are hard at work, and the smell of spring is in the air. The Superfresh Growers® team joined Dave Gleason, Chief Horticulturist, in one of the newer Eastern Washington orchard blocks to learn about the latest orchard happenings. 

The majority of cherries have passed full bloom, while most apples are just beginning, and apricots are in the final stages of bloom. “One of my favorite times of year is when the flowers are coming out,” explains Gleason. “We hit full bloom when the maximum number of flowers are open. The aroma of the orchard is intoxicating. It’s wonderful.”

Now that the ground has thawed from winter, the orchard team is busy planning and prepping a new 150 acre block that will be the future site of red Honeycrisp, Cosmic Crisp apples, and other high flavor and high color varieties. Cosmic Crisp is the new Washington State exclusive apple that will be available on the consumer market in 2020. The apple variety is easy to grow, leans to a deep red color, stores well, and has a delicious crisp and juicy texture.  

Goal is to remove ladders from the orchard

When planning a new orchard, Superfresh Growers has the opportunity to use the newest technology to create a labor efficient orchard. Robotic harvesting is on the horizon as a future option (as the technology develops). With the ultimate goal of completely removing ladders from the orchard, Superfresh Growers is investing in platforms and high density orchards. The rows of trees are planted with just enough room for a tractor/platform (about eleven feet). The platform can be used for everything ladders have been used for. “If our tree design is narrow enough, our employees can stand on the platforms and reach into the trees, reaching all sides of the tree just from one side. The platform can then roll through every other row, creating 50% labor savings and efficiency. We are looking at all possibilities to create the most efficient and labor friendly orchard,” explains Gleason. 

Spring is about ten days behind normal. Last year, the spring was earlier than normal, so bloom is about three weeks behind from last year. Superfresh Growers is aiming for cherry season to begin around June 12th this year. The apricot and cherry crop will be plentiful, with a harvest lasting well into late-summer for cherries.

Article by Fresh Plaza

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Blind Renaissance

Since 1972, Blind Renaissance has an extensive history of creating the strong visual identity and cohesive media presence demanded by the sophistication of marketing environments. We design engaging, client-specific promotional materials by combining an educated artistic sensibility, knowledge of advertising trends in multiple industries and the ability to appropriately utilize new design, web and printing technology.

Local Growers Gamble Big on Cosmic Crisp™

Jeannie Yandel speaks with NPR food reporter Dan Charles about a new apple variety coming to Washington state known as the Cosmic Crisp. Washington grows 70 percent of the apples in the United States, and Red Delicious is the largest single variety grown in the state.

But Americans don't really buy Red Delicious apples anymore. Only half of the 2016 crop has been sold. And the majority of those have gone overseas. Most American shoppers like other varieties – the Honeycrisp, the Gala, the Pink Lady. So apple growers are changing things up. They're hoping Cosmic Crisp will be a big hit among apple lovers. 

Article & Interview by Jeannie Yandel and Matt Martin

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Blind Renaissance

Since 1972, Blind Renaissance has an extensive history of creating the strong visual identity and cohesive media presence demanded by the sophistication of marketing environments. We design engaging, client-specific promotional materials by combining an educated artistic sensibility, knowledge of advertising trends in multiple industries and the ability to appropriately utilize new design, web and printing technology.

Out of this World Expectations for Cosmic Crisp Apple

There’s a new apple on the horizon, and it goes by the name of Cosmic Crisp. The apple, previously referred to as WA 38, took center stage at the International Fruit Tree Association’s (IFTA) Annual Conference in the variety’s home state of Washington in February. The variety transition, cutting-edge production systems, and robotics were some of the many highlights of this conference’s sole focus on apples.

Neal Manly of Regal Fruit International,  a variety management affiliate of Willow Drive Nursery, dubbed Cosmic Crisp a beast, for taking up the lion’s share of nursery orders in the next few years — 40% by 2018 — eclipsing Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, and Cripps Pink according to data he compiled from the four major nurseries in Washington State. He estimates all other managed varieties will make up 34.4% of nursery orders in that same year.

Manly estimates there will be 12 million Cosmic Crisp trees planted within the next three to four years.

Expectations for Cosmic Crisp are obviously high within the Washington apple industry, but what is of interest is how growers are shifting their focus from the traditional varieties consumers and marketers are familiar with and staking a claim to the next generation of apples.

“I’ve joined the thundering herd,” Mike Robinson of BMR Orchards in Royal City told tourgoers during a stop at his orchard. Robinson and his peers recognize the importance of being on the front line of production. “I want to capture the Cosmic Crisp premium before the other 7 million [trees] catch up.”

Goodbye Commodity Varieties
As growers in Washington bet big on Cosmic Crisp, varieties that have been hit or miss as far as quality — Honeycrisp in particular — will likely begin to taper off. Manly says Honeycrisp, which made up 35% of all new plantings in 2016, will be as low as 12.5% of new plantings as soon as next year.

Robinson recognizes the shift in production — as many growers in Washington State have.

“I don’t believe in perpetual motion,” he said of the continued growth in Honeycrisp revenue. “The big difference is that there are guys that are good at it and there are those that aren’t.”

While the challenges of growing Honeycrisp are no secret to growers, the reasons to transition to new managed varieties are often driven by simple economics.

Tour-goers visited McDougall & Sons Legacy Orchard in East Wenatchee, WA, where Scott McDougall sees his future in high-dollar varieties, especially with the cost per acre he put into his Legacy planting — a steep V system with 2-feet by 12-feet planting, and a 12-foot drive row. He says his steep V has about 1,815 trees to the acre, which he estimates cost about $60,000 an acre, plus two years of pre-production costs.

“We can’t afford to be planting commodity varieties,” he said.

“We don’t think our price will hold,” McDougall says of Honeycrisp, which is expected to have 15 to 20 million more trees coming into production in the next few years. “We know prices are going to come down.”

McDougall also is concerned about prices for Gala, which he says overplanting has cannibalized.

“It’s not a moneymaker at the warehouse,” he says. “I’m very concerned.”

Not Just ‘Cosmic Crisp’
New varieties such as Kanzi, SugarBee, SweeTango, Lady Alice, Junami, Sunrise Magic, Pinata, Sweetie, and Koru are also vying for market space, but they’ll have to out-muscle Cosmic Crisp.

Article by Christina Herrick, Growing Produce

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Blind Renaissance

Since 1972, Blind Renaissance has an extensive history of creating the strong visual identity and cohesive media presence demanded by the sophistication of marketing environments. We design engaging, client-specific promotional materials by combining an educated artistic sensibility, knowledge of advertising trends in multiple industries and the ability to appropriately utilize new design, web and printing technology.

A New Approach for a New Apple

Two-thirds of the nation’s apples come from Washington State at a value of nearly $2.4 billion.

The state’s industry is taking a unified approach to introduce a new variety they believe is out of this world.

Two hundred apple growers and industry representatives have come to a field day in Prosser, Washington, to get a glimpse of an apple most have already committed to growing, processing and distributing. Its hybrid name is WA38, but the public will know it as Cosmic Crisp. 

Ric Valicoff, Valkicoff Fruit Company: “That apple is extremely grower friendly. It sets itself up well in the tree, on either spindle, wall trellis, V trellis, what have you. It’s going to be way easier to deal with than the Honeycrisp, and a way better keeper.”
        

The rollout of Cosmic Crisp is a first for the apple industry, in that it mimics the introduction of many packaged foods. Apples are introduced to growers every year by university research farms, but this is the first time an apple has been taken through taste tests and focus groups before introduction. The audience data assured processors and wholesalers there is a market for the new apple. 

Cristy Warnock, Proprietary Variety Management:  “When a grower is deciding to grow a new variety, they can be only so comfortable with taking on a huge amount of risk with a new investment. The good thing about this situation is that the risk gets spread out through a whole industry. So more emphasis can be put into everyone collaborating and having their own orchards of this new variety, so that there will be a huge amount of volume, rather than a small amount trickling into the market over time.” 

The apple breeding program at Washington State University developed WA38 over twenty years, winnowing down an initial group of 40 favorable varieties to two that had commercial potential: WA2 and WA38. A crunchy and juicy apple, WA38 was more grower friendly than Honeycrisp, which is prone to rot, mildew and sunburn in the field, and possesses a thin skin that leads to punctures and bruising during processing. Leaving half of a Honeycrisp crop in the orchard is a common occurrence. Cosmic Crisp avoids most of these issues, and brings new advantages to the industry. Outside the orchard, the apple stores for 12 months without special measures like a low-oxygen atmosphere, and is extremely slow to brown once cut. 

Kate Evans, Washington State University: “So from a consumer perspective it's really a great eating apple, you know. Ultimately that is what the consumer wants. Most consumers key in on textural traits initially. Cosmic Crisp is crisp. Obviously, hence the name. It’s also extremely juicy. It’s one of those really nice apples that gives you that fantastic mouthfeel and the refreshing kind of juiciness that you get with an ultra crisp apple type.”
    
Dozens of varieties, some heirloom, some hybrid, are grown by individual orchards for the specialized apple market for audiences that prefer something unique. The potential of Cosmic Crisp encouraged the researchers at Washington State University to bring the entire supply chain to the table for the rollout of the new apple variety.

Cristy Warnock, Proprietary Variety Management:  “We’ve created a marketing advisory board made up of all of the main sales and marketing groups. Once they got on board, they felt compelled to get behind this.”

Exclusivity helped bring growers on board. Cosmic Crisp will only be grown in Washington for 10 years to give growers time to recoup their investment before the variety goes global. The apple breeding program at Washington State will see a revenue stream to fund future research by charging $1 per tree start and 4.5 percent of the wholesale sales of Cosmic Crisp apples grown in the state of Washington. 

Kate Evans, Washington State University: “Cosmic Crisp harvests in what is typically Red Delicious season. So many growers have been looking for something that would replace Red Delicious in terms of their harvest portfolio.”

It is expected that Red Delicious trees, a variety that sees 85% of the US crop exported internationally, will be the first to be replaced with Cosmic Crisp with other older varieties like Courtland and Braeburn to also lose acreage. The goal is to join Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp as the apples Americans most consume. Grower and packer interest is expected to make the rollout of Cosmic Crisp the fastest that the industry has ever seen. The last major apple variety to be introduced, Pink Lady, required 15 years to reach 1 million trees in the ground. Cosmic Crisp is expected to double that number in only two years. Interest in Cosmic Crisp has been so strong that a form of lottery was held to parcel out the initial tree starts. Few orchards got as many as they wanted, but most got enough for a dedicated section of their orchard. Roughly 700,000 trees will be grafted in 2017, with another 1.3 million in 2018, making it the largest apple tree introduction ever.  Cosmic Crisp apples should begin to appear in West Coast markets in 2019, and expand nationally in 2020. 

Ric Valicoff, Valicoff Fruit Company: “If you want to talk about the old Red Delicious and where that went, it’s sellability through the state of Washington back 30 years ago, this is the new Red Delicious but 10 times better.” 

Growing the better apple won’t come cheap. Converting an orchard to a new variety like Cosmic Crisp can cost $35,000 per acre. Using high density trellis systems, less than 1500 acres statewide will be needed to start 2 million trees, but at a cost to growers of over $40 million dollars. 

Time will tell if consumers will find room for this new apple in their shopping carts.

Article By Peter Tubbs, Market to Market

Washington State Legislature Tries Cosmic Crisp™ Brand Apples

Proprietary Variety Management recently shipped apples to the 2017 Legislative Reception in Olympia, WA on January 16th where several Washington State grown foods, including Cosmic Crisp™ brand apples, which were a big hit! There were about 40 guests who sampled a variety of foods prepared from Washington crops. A display of Cosmic Crisp™ brand apples was laid out for everyone to try. Multiple attendees remarked how delicious the apples are. The representative from Whidbey Island said they were very good and took several samples.

"We are all looking forward to buying [Cosmic Crisp™ brand apples] in our stores!"

– Janet Spingath, Executive Assistant & Member Services at Washington Friends of Farms & Forests

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Blind Renaissance

Since 1972, Blind Renaissance has an extensive history of creating the strong visual identity and cohesive media presence demanded by the sophistication of marketing environments. We design engaging, client-specific promotional materials by combining an educated artistic sensibility, knowledge of advertising trends in multiple industries and the ability to appropriately utilize new design, web and printing technology.

Domex Superfresh Growers' Talks Cosmic Crisp™

Domex Superfresh Growers' Dave Gleason Talks Autumn Glory® and Cosmic Crisp™ Apples in New January Orchard Update

YAKIMA, WA - As we inch ever closer to the end of winter and the warm weather of spring, AndNowUKnow was more than ready to hear the latest Washington orchard update from the ever-delightful Dave Gleason, Chief Horticulturist for Domex Superfresh Growers®. Mother Nature has brought Eastern Washington a very snowy winter prior to the upcoming apple harvest, prompting Dave to compare his days in the orchards to Groundhog’s Day, coincidentally the favorite movie of Mrs. Gleason.

Dave Gleason

“We have inputs that we have no control over,” says Gleason, mentioning the vital, but often-repetitive pruning process. “We may do the same thing every year, but the weather is different, the water is different, the timing of the spring, when things are harvested, all of those things are dictated by what nature gives us every year. We really don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring!” 

The Domex crew pruning treefruit in its Washington Orchards.

The Domex crew pruning treefruit in its Washington Orchards.

According to a press release, Superfresh Growers® uses this winter downtime as an opportunity to reflect and plan for its future harvests. While predicting what consumers’ favorite apples will be in the coming decade is a challenge, its one the company is confident to take on, especially with the aid of the flavor profile of its Autumn Glory® apple. In addition to increasing Autumn Glory® acreage for the upcoming season, Domex plans to be a key participant in the Cosmic Crisp™ variety, the latest variety from Washington State University’s tree fruit breeding program. 

Want to learn more about the day-to-day happenings in Domex’s snowy Washington orchards? Get the scoop straight from the rosy-cheeked treefruit-whisperer himself in Dave’s short video update above.

Article by Jessice Donnel, And Now U Know

 

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Blind Renaissance

Since 1972, Blind Renaissance has an extensive history of creating the strong visual identity and cohesive media presence demanded by the sophistication of marketing environments. We design engaging, client-specific promotional materials by combining an educated artistic sensibility, knowledge of advertising trends in multiple industries and the ability to appropriately utilize new design, web and printing technology.