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Innovation Leader – Protect Supply

Job Purpose

Zespri's SunGold production in Europe is expanding in an effort to keep pace with growing demand around the world. Current planted area in Europe of 3,060 hectares of Gold3 is expected to increase by 30% over the next two years and further double-digit increases are expected for the following 5 years. Although the European orchard performance is improving year on year with the transfer of New Zealand best practices to European growers, Europe's different soil and climatic conditions bring with them unique knowledge gaps and productivity challenges that need to be understood and addressed at a local level. Zespri aims to improve productivity and quality of European kiwifruit through the transfer of New Zealand best practices as well as through the support of local research and development.

For the past two years Zespri has been building R&D capability in Europe in the area of "Sustainable Orchard Productivity". Current pressures on orchard, in particular from Kiwifruit Vine Decline Syndrome (KVDS) along with Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB), have led to the need for additional R&D expertise in the area of pest and disease management or what is known as "Protect Supply" in Zespri. Over the next two years, the main focus of both the Orchard Productivity and Protect Supply teams in Italy will be to support a programme of research addressing KVDS supported by Zespri staff, supplier/grower partners and third-party research institutions. This role will directly manage and oversee the portfolio of work within this programme specific to pest and disease research. Strong project management experience, relationship building, and communication skills are a pre-requisite for this role.

This role is based in Aprilia, Italy and will report directly to the Team Leader Biosecurity based in New Zealand.

The role will be required to set up a portfolio of research for the creation and extension of knowledge targeted at pests and disease management for kiwifruit in Italy, and other key producing areas in Europe.

The incumbent will be expected to direct and work with local and international research providers to initiate and project manage research into prioritised areas. An important aspect of the role is to bridge relationships between Zespri and it's research partners in both Europe and New Zealand, to work with present collaborators and to identify other leading science groups in the desired fields of research.

The incumbent will work closely with other Zespri roles based in Italy including the European Regional Manager and the ZGS Technical and Global Extension Teams. They will be expected to maintain a strong working relationship with Zespri Innovation Leaders and marketing staff as well as Plant & Food Research (PFR) scientists in NZ associated with optimising the sustainable production of high-quality kiwifruit that is safe to eat and meets Zespri quality standards.

The incumbent will be bilingual and will be required to build a good understanding of the New Zealand Industry and Zespri production, quality, compliance and postharvest systems which will be required to ensure Italian produced fruit can meet Zesprìs standards. After 12 months in the role, and in anticipation that Covid restrictions will have eased by then, they will be expected to spend an extended period (up to 3 months) in NZ. This is to build a good understanding of the NZ Innovation ecosystem and to develop relationships with NZ based Innovation counterparts.


1. Strategic alignment of European research in the Protect Supply space with global Innovation strategy

2. Strong representation into the ZGS leadership team on behalf of Innovation.

3. Leadership and project management of the Protect Supply workstreams of KVDS task Force 

4. Management of the Protect Supply research programme in Italy: The first stage will be to initiate and co-ordinate the protect supply research programme in Italy. This will require working closely with the Europe Supply Manager, Italian science institutes, and PFR. While some projects may have already commenced, others will need to be scoped and project objectives, methodologies and milestones agreed. This will include the development of project contracts and consideration of funding requirements and intellectual property implications. 

Expected outcomes: 

· The research programme is well planned, with funding requirements proposed through the annual Zespri budgeting process, and individual projects approved through the Board Innovation Subcommittee (BIS). 

· The research programme is implemented successfully, and project outcomes are delivered on time and with outcomes that will assist commercial fruit production 

· The strategic priorities are reconsidered at least annually and are strongly informed by Zespri Global Supply Italy and technical teams and the wider Innovation team. 

Key Outcomes of this role: 

· Provision of Knowledge into Zesprìs Operations 

The outcome from the research projects will be shared and communicated to Zespri operations teams to support commercial activities aimed at the supply of high-quality kiwifruit in Europe that will meet Zesprìs quality standards. The results of the projects are considered in context of any operational challenges, so that maximum benefit of the research can be reached in the Italian commercial environment. 

Expected outcomes: 

The research project outputs are deeply understood and shared with the Zespri operations teams to build knowledge in how to optimise production, commercially

· Communication of the research outcomes to stakeholder groups is supported as appropriate and if requested, for example with reports, articles, presentations, discussions. 

· Building and managing key relationships in Italy 

· Building knowledge on how to optimise production of high-quality kiwifruit in Italy will require the support of a range of Italian organisations.

This role will be responsible for: 

a) identifying the essential inputs required, the Italian organisations and personnel best placed to provide those inputs and agreed approach for gaining their support 

b) Identifying, developing and maintaining good working relationships with those organisations. 

c) Building relationships within the Italian kiwifruit and research sector to deepen understanding of kiwifruit supply capability. 

Expected impact of this role:

· The programme receives the commercial, political and scientific support that it needs to succeed from it's Italian partners 

· High quality service provision from third parties 

· Relationship issues are identified early and mitigated before they impact upon the programme objectives.


Science qualification at Master's Level or higher, with minimum three years working experience at a senior level

Technical Capability

1. Horticultural industry knowledge preferred, with broad general interest in pathology, biology, plant physiology or other related areas

2. Project management experience is a pre-requisite.

3. Bilingual - competent at business level in English, Italian

Candidates are requested to apply to zespri.jobs@zespri.com with the title: Application for Innovation Leader – Protect Supply attaching a copy of their English resume.

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