Bayer is expanding its fruit and vegetable business by acquiring the strawberry breeding program of NIAB, a British agricultural research center. 

Bayer said in a release that the acquisition will allow it focus on farms with protected strawberry production to meet the year-round demand for the fruit.

NIAB said the strawberry program will continue to operate from NIAB's East Malling site in Kent, southeast of London. 

"Strawberries are the fastest growing fruit crop, with year-round demand exceeding supply. In fact, strawberries are the category leaders in the produce aisle, accounting for more than 23% of fresh fruit sales," said Inci Dannenberg, head of Bayer’s Vegetables business. 

“With Bayer entering the strawberry market, we will offer growers premium genetics combined with innovative crop protection products and digital solutions.”

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Bayer’s purchase of the NIAB program is expected to close by Jan. 1. Bayer didn’t provide the cost of the acquisition. 

NIAB has conducted some trials in the United States, but has no U.S. sales, according to a Bayer spokesman.

According to Bayer, growing strawberries in greenhouses or other protection gives growers “more control over their environment, crop management, pests and disease. … Additionally, plants grown under protection use less water than open field crops and have the potential for increased retail shelf life as they can be grown closer to the consumer.”