Bonza Botanicals is what happens when an international plant breeding powerhouse joins forces with a top breeder and producer in the Southern Hemisphere. The joint research and development venture between Oasis Horticulture Australia and Suntory Corp. was made official in February 2005. The companies cited international challenges from water restrictions to changing consumer lifestyles and housing and garden design trends as the reason for the collaboration.
“Bonza Botanicals aims to meet the needs of these changing times and deliver enhanced plant products to the market that fulfill these global environmental and market expectations,” said Clive Austin of Oasis Horticulture.
The two companies will be able to bring even more exciting varieties to market through their synergies in breeding, technology and global marketing and distribution.
“Through this major investment we are convinced that the team can set the benchmark globally for plant and flower development,” said Shigeru Sarada of Suntory Ltd of the venture in 2005. “We are pleased to be working with the Oasis team through Bonza Botanicals, to further develop the group’s knowledge and capabilities in providing innovative and market-defining intellectual property for next generation plant biotechnology.”
Australian-owned and the largest seedling supplier to the Australian nursery industry, Oasis is one of the largest greenhouse and nursery operations in Australia, with facilities in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. In addition to supplying cuttings and seedlings to growers, Oasis is the largest finished producer for retailers. It also has a research and development division that breeds new varieties, like the Madeira argyranthemum and Dreamtime bracteantha series offered through Ball FloraPlant.
Suntory Limited, a world beverage giant, holds a strong international reputation in plant breeding with its innovative and popular bedding plant series, including Surfinia petunia, Million Bells calibrachoa and Tapien and Temari verbena. The Bonza Botanicals venture, however, is completely separate from these existing breeding lines.
Bonza, Two Years Later
The Oasis/Suntory relationship is flourishing since Bonza Botanicals was born in 2005, according to Andrew Bernuetz, who directs research and development for Bonza. The team has already released several new varieties in Japan and is trialing new products for release in North America and Europe, he says.
“Our year-round research and development program, utilizing seasonal differences of northern and southern hemispheres, is well-developed,” he says. “We have also employed new staff and continue to expand our breeding area located in Winmalee on the outskirts of Sydney.”
While new varieties are continually being added to the Madeira argyranthemum and Dreamtime bracteantha brands for North America and Europe, Bernuetz says in Japan three types of argyranthemum were launched in fall 2006 under the Bonza brand. Each type has been named after Australian landmarks that are familiar to Japanese consumers.
“The Reef series has single flowers inspired by the Great Barrier Reef and the Opera series has a double flower and was inspired by the Sydney Opera House,” Bernuetz says. “The final series is named Uluru and possesses anemone flowers, which when viewed from the side, have an appearance similar to this well-known landmark.”
The Japanese market will receive new scaevola, bracteantha and chili crops this spring, he says. Surdiva scaevolas were introduced at the California Pack Trials
“Bonza will release a new compact and early flowering form of scaevola in three colors — dark blue, light blue and white. We will also add new forms and colors to our well-known bracteantha Dreamtime Jumbo series. The new chili varieties — five in total — are already grown by Oasis Horticulture in Australia and are proving popular in that market,” Bernuetz says.