ONE OF the companies pioneering new, high value crops in Canterbury is Methven-based South Pacific Seeds.

“We are a specialist company producing hybrid vegetable seed. Our customers are plant breeders, often from Holland,” explains managing director John McKay.

Carrot, spinach, beetroot, cabbage, Chinese cabbage and onion are the main crops.

“Traditionally these vegetables are grown in places like France, Italy, Japan, Korea, China, and the US Pacific north-west. All of these places are about 45 north.

“If you look for the same latitude in the southern hemisphere, you will see there are only two possible places, the southern tip of Chile, which is cold, inhospitable, and has little or no agriculture, and the South Island of New Zealand.”

From trials with hybrid spinach seed on his own farm in 1991/1992 the business has blossomed to include over 400 crops spread between about 240 growers and 2000ha (4942 acres) this season.

“They will be worth NZ$12-15m (4.5-5.6m) at the farm gate.”