What does a biotechnology innovator look like, exactly? In the case of our company, he looks like, well, an apple grower.
Pictured: OSF Founders Louisa and Neal CarterOkanagan Specialty Fruits was founded by apple and cherry growers Neal and Louisa Carter in 1996. They grow and pack their fruit in Canada’s beautiful Okanagan Valley. Spend some time talking to Neal, and it becomes very clear that he has a broad worldview gained while working as a bioresource engineer. For nearly 30 years he has worked with numerous crops around the globe, ranging from maize to mango, from growing to harvesting, packing, storage, processing and packaging.
From that firsthand experience, Neal was persuaded that biotechnology can help agriculture meet ever-expanding global food demand. Meanwhile, as the North American apple market stalled he grew concerned about flat apple consumption while other produce innovations spurred markets for baby carrots, leafy greens as food wraps, consumer-friendly “personal-sized” melons and the like. The Carters founded OSF to explore opportunities to use biotechnology to boost fruit consumption – and boost growers’ sustainability at the same time. (The OSF team includes a science team whose credentials are among the best in the world; we will introduce you to our science team in future blog posts.)
Convinced that a spark was needed to again excite consumers about apples, Neal chose development of a nonbrowning apple as OSF’s first project after learning about work to produce nonbrowning potatoes in Australia. OSF licensed that technology and the science team adapted it to “turn off” apples’ browning genes using other apple genes – and so Arctic® apples began.
In addition to his broad worldview, Neal also has a long-term view. He has patiently overseen field trials of Arctic® apples since 2003, to ensure their safety and stability. In fact, Arctic® apples are proving to be identical to other apples in how the trees behave in the orchard, and how their fruit is harvested and packed – until Arctic® apples are bruised, bitten or cut, that is.
When Neal and Louisa aren’t juggling the demands of their orchards and directing OSF’s work, this active couple enjoys hiking, mountain biking and skiing. You can see and hear from Neal here. And you’ll hear more from Neal himself in future blog posts.