C.H. Robinson’s partnership with Israel-based Origene Seeds, begun in 2011 when the produce sourcer and logistics specialist acquired Timco Worldwide Inc., has expanded its miniature seedless watermelon offerings and brought more melon varieties into development.
Eden Prairie, Minn.-based C.H. Robinson ships the mini seedless watermelons nationwide. They’re marketed under the MelonUp! Pink Ribbon Watermelon label.
Its three main watermelon varieties are Classico, Early Riser and Proxima.
“Historically, the seedless varieties are harvested to be a sweet melon, but didn’t have a great amount of recognizable watermelon flavor,” said Tim Colin, director of grower management and development for C.H. Robinson. The joint innovation with Origene Seeds on the Classico variety, among other ventures, provided a way to change such comparatively minimal expectations for taste, he said.
Colin was also the founder and CEO of Timco Worldwide. Timco began an exclusive partnership with Origene in 2008.
“Although Israel might seem far from the majority of domestic watermelon production, through the combination of innovative seed breeding (there) and global trial and production in other areas across the globe, C.H. Robinson is able to answer a variety of region-specific challenges,” he said.
The six-year history of the companies with Origene and changes in that time to how varieties are selected allows C.H. Robinson to benefit by advancing seeds through the breeding process quickly, Colin said.
“(It’s) helped drive the global adoption of C.H. Robinson’s mini seedless watermelons,” he said.
Cucurbits are Origene Seeds’ specialty. C.H. Robinson conducts proprietary seed trials in various additional fresh produce categories.
Another fruit of the partnership with the Israeli breeder is the CantaBella melon. It’s a cross between a French Charentais melon and a cantaloupe.
“CantaBella has unique characteristics of both of its parent melons, including semi-smooth skin and the Charentais flavor profile,” Colin said. That skin minimizes food safety risk, according to the company. The French melon, an heirloom variety, has a reputation for being sweeter than cantaloupe.
CantaBella, which made an appearance at the 2012 Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit, remains in trials.
Origene and C.H. Robinson continue to develop mini watermelon varieties for resistance to powdery mildew, a common fungal disease. Those are aimed at increasing yield and improving supply chain consistency as well, Colin said.
Each year, the companies meet during prime seed harvesting to review seed progress and decide which varieties to advance to trial production phases.