My first full-time job as a 20-year old BSc graduate was as a technician working with Dr Don McKenzie, the father of ‘Gala’ apple, at the Havelock North office of the then DSIR.
Don introduced me to the fascinating world of the apple and in particular his collections of apple cultivars and breeding populations. After an OE I returned to university to graduate from Massey with a PhD in Horticultural Science in 1992.
From 1994 to 2001 I was employed by HortResearch as a postharvest scientist based in the Hawke’s Bay that included a post-doc at UC Davis in 1996 working on ‘Fuji’ apple.
However in 2001 I changed research direction to become an apple and pear breeder – leading and co-ordinating HortResearch’s (now Plant and Food Research) apple and pear cultivar breeding programmes. Since 2001 five apple and pear cultivars have been commercialized from the programme including SmittenTM, LemonadeTMand RockitTM apples and VelvatineTM pear.