The birth of New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry actually stems back to the early 20th century.
Kiwifruit seeds were first introduced to New Zealand in 1904 by Isabel Fraser, a teacher from Whanganui in the North Island. She had seen the fruit while visiting her sister in China.
It is believed British naturalist Ernest Henry Wilson, who travelled to China to source new plant species, gave the seeds to Isabel. Kiwifruit seeds were then planted in our healthy, fertile soils in 1905 by Alexander Allison, a Whanganui farmer who had a keen interest in unusual plants.
It’s likely only a small number of seeds were brought back to New Zealand but, most fortuitously, Isabel’s seeds gave rise to male and female plants – which are both needed to produce fruit. By 1910, unique vines began to grow. These would become New Zealand’s first kiwifruit cultivars, descended from Isabel’s seeds.
By the 1920s, sales for plantings were recorded in Auckland, Tauranga, Fielding and Whanganui.