In the 1960s Don Skelton ("the breeder") purchased 100 acres in the Bay of Plenty and at that time kiwifruit was by regulation only allowed to be picked after May 1. Don, ever the renegade decided to try and breed EARLY SEASON maturing fruit.
The first acceptable varieties were "Skelton" and "Merle" which flowered earlier than Hayward and matured earlier.
In 1980 Don bought properties at Waiuku and extended the breeding operation.
In the 1990's the Skelton was exported - sold well, but had to be handpicked as it did not fit existing machinery.
A Chinese market gardener brought back seeds from China (less than a teaspoon full) . The Chinese seeds ended up with 10 plants. These varieties were developed to span the season.
During this period Don sold a couple of varieties to:
Over nearly 40 years Don cross bred over 40 different varieties and is regarded as one of the preeminent kiwifruit breeders. Being deliberately independent from the NZ government controlled and funded Zespri Don has bred more kiwifruit varieties than any other New Zealander.
SNZI Is best known for its wide range of NO-GMO Kiwifruit Varieties.
All of these commercial varieties are the work of New Zealand fruit breeder Don Skelton, who has developed 40% of all Kiwifruit Plant Variety Rights (PVRs) worldwide. Don’s varieties are popularly known by their prestigious brand names, such as KiwiKiss, First Gold, Tropikiwi and Enza gold.
Don’s work has produced varieties which benefit kiwifruit growers worldwide in many ways:
SNZI’s kiwifruit varieties are or have been grown in six continents, in 10 countries.
Our kiwifruit varieties have undergone extensive trial tests. We currently maintain trial sites in Europe, Africa, North and South America.