Sakata Vegenetics South Africa (Pty) Ltd

Sakata Vegenetics South Africa (Pty) Ltd

Debbie Carmichael at Sakata Vegenetics checks for hybrid purity for quality and control purposes on Esco’s SwiftmaxPro thermal cyler


Sakata Vegenetics South Africa (Pty) Ltd is breeding tomato varieties for the South African and European market. They are part of Sakata Seed Corporation Global, a company established in 1915. Today, the company’s turnover is 30 million Euros a year.  Their location in the Cradle of Mankind north of Johannesburg seems apt, since it is here that varieties are developed and the research is performed to develop new hybrid tomato plants.  To facilitate the increase in operations within the biotech and pathology laboratory, Sakata has acquired the new Esco Swift MaxPro Thermal Cycler, which was supplied by Labotec.


The new tomato varieties for local and international markets need to be disease-resistant, taking into consideration the climate and environmental conditions of the area in which they are to be grown.  The tomato varieties developed therefore need to be disease tolerant and resistant against bacterial, viral or fungal infection.  In addition, the taste and other phenotypic characteristics are also important such as yield, hot set, cold set, fruit size uniformity and color.  For these reasons, testing takes place on a molecular level.


During research and development at Sakata, plants are infected with pertinent diseases and the seedlings are grown and symptom expression is observed.  To speed up the process marker assisted selection, PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) was used.  The Esco thermal cycler was used for replication of a small, unique segment of the resistant gene as well as checked for hybrid purity for quality and control purposes.


The Esco thermal cycler offers 5 interchangeable blocks to meet the requirements for Gradient PCR, Touchdown, High Throughput and in Situ PCR.  To meet the expectations that Sakata biotechnology requires for nucleic acid synthesis, this cycler had to have rapid heating / cooling rates, temperature uniformity of 0.2°C, 96 wells, and a large internal memory for protocols.


As Sakata’s breeding activities are focused on an extensive tomato program, once the variety has been developed, the hybrids are grown in selected zones around the country and abroad to ensure that the varieties are well suited and adaptable for the local and European markets.  Should the pre-commercial trialing be successful, the seeds are produced and supplied to the pre-identified markets, and a new breed of tomatoes can flourish.

Contributed by: Labotec (Pty) Ltd