Kiwiberry Breeding Scientist Earns Innovator of the Year Award

Iago Hale, left, oversees UNH’s kiwiberry breeding and research program, based at the UNH Woodman Horticultural Research Farm in Durham, NH. Photo credit: UNH

Iago Hale (left) oversees University of New Hampshire’s (UNH)  kiwiberry breeding and research program, based at the UNH Woodman Horticultural Research Farm in Durham, NH. Photo credit: UNH

Iago Hale, Associate Professor of Specialty Crop Improvement at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), was recently named UNH’s 2024 J. Brent Loy Innovator of the Year, recognizing his pioneering work in the kiwiberry research and breeding program.

The Innovator of the Year award, presented annually by UNHInnovation, celebrates the commercialization of innovative ideas originating from UNH research that have substantial social and economic impact.

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Hale, who serves as a scientist for the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station (NHAES), has been instrumental in developing these cold-hardy, grape-sized fruits into a promising horticultural crop for the Northeast. His efforts focus on enhancing kiwiberry varieties for commercial production, emphasizing traits like flavor, texture and overall appearance that make them appealing for both local and regional markets.

Hale’s ongoing partnership with UNHInnovation ensures that his research extends beyond academic circles, influencing industry practices and enhancing the economic landscape of New England’s agricultural sector.

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“I did not invent kiwiberries,” Hale says. “There are very many people who came before me, all the way back to rural communities thousands of years ago, who recognized the merits of these species in the wild. I see an award like this as a well-deserved acknowledgement of that long, collective effort to steward plant genetic diversity for the public good.”

The kiwiberry’s potential to become a new high-value crop aligns with Hale’s vision of transforming regional agriculture. His research not only meets consumer demands for high-quality local produce but also boosts the viability of local farms through the creation of new agricultural enterprises and value-added products.

“Everyone should eat more weird fruit,” Hale says. “This kind of long-term, relatively high-risk research lies at the heart of the land-grant university mission.”

Learn more about Hale’s kiwiberry research at his Nor’East Kiwiberries website and about his recent project to distribute vines from the vineyard to regional farmers on UNH Today.

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