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New Washington state apple taking first step toward market

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(The Center Square) – Washington State University could send a new type of apple to market by 2029.

“We’re just in the very early processes of the commercialization,” said Jeremy Tamsen, WSU director of innovation and commercialization. “We’re looking for our commercial partner.”

On June 5, WSU announced it is seeking a licensee to commercialize the new “WA 64” apple, a cross between Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink apples. The licensee will help sub-license to growers, send trees to places like nurseries and more.

“They have facilities and land in order to do this,” Tamsen said. “We look for someone to take the tree, enter into a legal agreement with WSU, scale up the production of the tree.”

The university will stop accepting proposals in August, he added.

Tamsen said licensees will produce budwood, a shoot with buds that can be grafted onto rootstock, a horizontal plant stem with shoots above and roots below serving as a reproductive structure.

“That will begin the process heading toward the consumer market,” Tamsen continued.

It’s too early, he said, to offer estimates on the apple’s economic effect, as the university has not yet selected a licensee and does not know its production scale.

Apples are big business in Washington. The Evergreen State’s apple harvest accounts for a $7.5 billion annual economic effect, according to the Washington State Tree Fruit Association.

The apple’s market name is “forthcoming,” according to Tamsen.

University officials are unsure whether the trademark process will be internal or not.

Researchers initially made the cross between WA 64 apples in 1998, noticing the fruit’s quality changed little after months of refrigerated storage, according to the WSU Office of Commercialization, which noted the apple has “exceptional eating characteristics.” It resists sunburn and bruising, matures evenly, can be easily harvested and retains flavor and firmness.

“We’ve been doing research on the production quality, the fruit quality, the tree growth habits, the rootstock pairings,” Tamsen said. “Only now – 25 years later – are we ready to begin the licensing.”

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