Biotechnology Research Institute



Biotechnology Research Institute

The Biotechnology Research Institute (BRI) is a centre of excellence in the application of biotechnology techniques and processes to enhance performance in agriculture, medicine and bioprocess industries. The institute draws its strength from an intimate knowledge of genetics, microbiology, cell biology, molecular biology, gene editing, biochemistry, animal cell culture, embryology and chemical/process engineering.

The institute has world class expertise in manipulating living organisms and bioprocesses to improve plant varieties and animal breeds, enhance health delivery processes, and facilitate production of biological molecules through cell culture and fermentation technology processes.

1. Strategic research objectives for agriculture production and crop breeding are to:

  • Generate and disseminate agricultural biotechnologies and innovations for market-driven agricultural product value chain
  • Conduct research into plant genetics with a view to producing crop varieties that boost agricultural production and ensure national food security
  • Develop crop varieties adapted for growth in marginal zones for livelihoods improvement of both rural and small-scale farmers
  • Contribute to the development of seed systems for rice through accelerating availability of superior quality high yielding upland rice varieties
  • Produce disease free seed potato through Rapid Multiplication Techniques (RMT) comprising tissue culture and aeroponics and promote improved seed management
  • Develop and promote value chains of under-utilized crops including sesame, cassava and sweet potato
  • Develop and deploy complementary agronomic practices including Integrated Nutrient Management, Integrated Pest Management and Integrated Water Management for improved resilience and sustainable production
  • Improve and maintain crop health and food safety through capacity building and training in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to enhance market opportunities
  •  Develop and disseminate low-cost affordable pre and postharvest handling and storage technologies
  • Support the development of processing and value addition of crop products
  • Develop a data base of soil types across scale and identify appropriate cropping systems and nutrient management frame works in conjunction with precision farming
  • Promote and provide technical expertise in the identification, collection and conservation of valuable plant germplasm
  • Promote and participate in national initiatives that adapt biotechnology to the needs of agriculture, manufacturing industry, health and biological services by reducing such initiatives to practice.
  • Provide technical and advisory services on genetically modified organisms and their screening in animal feed and food crops
  • Offer technical and professional advisory services in the proper use of modern biotechnology
  • Enhance availability of knowledge, information and technologies on agricultural biotechnology product value chain research


2. Strategic research objectives for livestock production & breeding program

To improve livestock production, productivity and products utilisation. This includes:

  • Development and promotion of improved livestock breeds adaptable to diverse production systems, developing new systems for production and delivery of improved genetics to smallholders, identifying disease-resistance and performance traits in poultry breeds indigenous to smallholder farming systems
  • Development and promotion of robust forage systems and dual purpose legumes, improved and sustainable low-cost feed formulations and feed systems
  • Promotion of business development models such as pen fattening and indigenous poultry production improving hatchability, through artificial incubation, brooding and improved housing systems and feed supplements
  • Capacity building and training in improved livestock husbandry practices for improved animal health and food safety
  • Supporting the development, processing, value addition and food safety
  • Support animal genetic resources conservation
  • Knowledge management and sharing

Maize Improvement Project: The project aims to develop, release and commercialize multiple-stress tolerant varieties through the use of molecular marker-assisted selection (MAS). Elite drought tolerant and insect-resistant maize lines have been developed. This has led to the development of SIRDAMAIZE varieties.

Seed potato production: The project focus is on production of disease-free plantlets through meristem tissue culture technology. It also uses different molecular approaches to detect, diagnose and eradicate viruses and other diseases from infected plants. Furthermore, the project adopts rapid multiplication techniques and the aeroponics greenhouse technology to produce disease free seed

Rice breeding and extension: The main goal of the SIRDC rice breeding program is to enhance high-yielding rice germplasm through evaluation of breeding materials for yield and biotic and abiotic stresses in Zimbabwe. Additionally, SIRDC aims to multiply and disseminate quality superior rice seed to Zimbabwean farmers. The SIRDC rice breeding program has resulted in:

  • Re-activation of rice breeding activities in national breeding programs in Zimbabwe
  • Increased breeding efficiency for high-yielding and stress tolerant varieties by exchanging materials and information through rice breeding networks, and
  • Enhancement of rice productivity and farmers’ income in Zimbabwe.


Traditional small grains: The project aims to develop high yielding, adaptable and nutrient-
dense cultivars of sorghum, pearl and finger millets. The institute collaborates with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) for germplasm
acquisition and capacity building in traditional grains research and development.

Livestock development: Livestock project is addressing challenges faced by Zimbabwean indigenous farmers through researching on climate smart technologies and models that contribute to increased adoption of business-oriented and climate-smart livestock feeding practices, adaptive breeds, animal husbandry practices contributing to sustainable intensification of livestock production and poverty alleviation. Livestock research has resulted in the scientific development of a complete feed range under the banner of Gamma Foods. This range of livestock feed addresses the nutritional needs of farmers by using available resources on farm.

Horticulture development: The program is facilitating the development of small scale horticultural industry so as to improve nutritional status, increase incomes and reduce poverty while increasing productivity and quality of the produce. Much emphasis is on Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) and its corresponding certification procedures including quality standards and quality requirements so as to effectively compete and access the regional and international markets. The program also addresses post-harvest management and value addition to horticultural produce through training, technical support, and applied research

Mushroom Project: The project is producing and selling high quality oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) and button (agaricus bisporus) mushroom spawn. Apart from spawn production, BRI also grows and sells quality oyster mushroom fruit on a commercial basis. Through collaboration with TIPS, the institute is now producing button mushroom at SIRDC and offers training to entrepreneurs who wish to venture into mushroom production. Mushroom production has proved very popular with urban and peri-urban customers. The training is offered on a monthly basis. The institute is now producing button mushroom at SIRDC and offers training to entrepreneurs who wish to venture into mushroom production. Mushroom production has proved very popular with urban and peri-urban customers. The training is offered on a monthly basis.

Legumes and Tuber crop Projects: This is a multipronged and multifaceted project geared towards preserving national heritage by carrying out research and developing value added products from under-utilized indigenous crops. Zimbabwe is endowed with a range of indigenous root and tuber, vegetable and legume crops and other plants that are naturally adapted to the country agro ecological regions. The institute is currently focusing on the whole value chain of sweet potato and cassava, from production and supply of tissue cultured virus free planting material, to supply of healthy tubers and value added products. The project seeks to complement Government efforts to combat Vitamin A Deficiency through distribution of the Orange fleshed sweet potato variety vines for enhanced production and utilisation in small holder households. Cassava is a highly nutritious crop which can be in cooperated as a supplement in feed formulation. There is a high potential in these crops that may be used to mitigate the vulnerability of people to the risks of food shortages and poor nutrition. This project
seeks to identify indigenous crop and plant resources that can be turned into high value nutritious
food products for local and regional markets.

Herbs: The project aims at growing and propagating herbs organically and to process the herbs into research based scientifically formulated medicinal and culinary products. The herbs project also seeks to educate, promote, and inform people on sustainable production and safe use of herbs as food/dietary supplements. Most herbs have been proven to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antiviral properties which help in alleviating some symptoms of various diseases and also help prevent food spoilage and protect against microbial contamination. They are also rich in antioxidants which help fight damage caused by free radicals.

Partnerships: The Government of the Republic of Korea continue to fund projects at SIRDC for rural development and livelihood improvements through the Korea Africa Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (KAFACI) and the Korea Program on International Agriculture (KOPIA) Zimbabwe Centre.

KAFACI projects: BRI is currently implementing five projects under Korea Africa Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (KAFACI). The projects cover food and horticulture crops such as rice, maize and onion, as well as crop-livestock systems. Through KAFACI the BRI works together with other African countries and South Korea to tackle agricultural issues. Through KAFACI several scientists from BRI have been trained in South Korea and all the projects have been successfully implemented since 2011.

KOPIA projects: Since the establishment of the Korea Programme on International Agriculture (KOPIA) Zimbabwe Centre BRI has implemented four projects in collaboration with the Rural Development Administration of South Korea. The projects include:

  • the promotion of better management practices for the production of indigenous chickens
  • Production of disease free potato seed
  • Horticulture innovation development
  • Enlargement and dissemination of sesame seeding technology with strong drought resistance
  • Development and promotion of indigenous mushroom production technologies
  • Expansion and cultivation of drought-resistant varieties in small farms for the majority of Maize.

· Mushroom spawn: Oyster Spawn is currently on offer (Pleurotus ostreatus)
· Fresh and dried oyster mushrooms
· Virus-free sweet potato vines and virus-free tissue cultured potato seedlings
· Herbal products – herbal teas: basil, lemon grass, nettle, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, yarrow
· Livestock feed

· Training courses on the following:
· Livestock production and biosecurity measures
· Mushroom cultivation technologies
· Horticulture production including GAP principles and standards
· Pre and post-harvest handling of fresh produce
· Safe use of pesticides
· Composting technologies
· Greenhouse crop production
· Herbs cultivation, harvesting, drying and understanding their medicinal properties


Over the years, research at BRI, has, facilitated both production gains and commercialization which are drivers for sustainable agriculture transformation. This include:

  1. Development of 6 drought tolerant maize hybrids which were released under the SIRDAMAIZE Brand: These include SIRDAMAIZE113, 115, 117, 119, 713 and 101. SIRDA Maize 113 is already on the market. And BRI has supported both Presidential and Pfumvudza input Schemes through the provision of SIRDAMaize 113 certified seed for commercial production across smallholder maize-based agro-ecologies. Other varieties are set to be commercialized starting this year
  2. The institute has developed a roadmap for producing disease free seed potato comprising tissue culture for in-vitro-plant production and aeroponics which increases the seed multiplication rate by about 8- to 10-fold, potentially reducing field generations. The institute is therefore set to contribute and supply atleast 5% of the national seed potato requirements.
  3. We have prototype value added orange fleshed sweet potato and cassava products and methods and products will be commercialized
  4. We have more than 28 herbs and associated herbal products which contribute to health sustenance and well-being.
  5. We have developed and improved indigenous chicken breeds from which we have supplied over 10 000 to smallholder farmers
  6. We have 8 feed formulations for the different livestock species set for
    commercialization and will trade under Gamma Food brand
  7. We have developed production models for producing indigenous mushrooms on farm for adoption and adaption
  8. The institute has introduced and promoted artificial egg incubators for improved hatchability of indigenous chickens and brooding and feed systems to reduce mortality and enhance production and productivity and profitability on-farm
  9. We have developed and promoted a low cost post-harvest handling model, which extends storage life , managing glut, allowing farmers to identify markets, without spoilage
  10. We have developed Integrated Nutrient Management Models for resource use-efficiency, higher productivity and profitability
  11. We have provided information and training to farmers and other stakeholders to build their capacities to adopt and adapt new technologies
  12. These achievements contribute to the National Development strategy and the vision 2030


With the aim to forward sustainable development in agriculture we seek collaboration in the following areas:

1. Maize project: Improving resilience in foundation seed
2. Indigenous Crops: Breeding and cultivation of indigenous crops particularly small grains to improve food security and nutrition
3. Emerging biotechnology approaches/tools
4. Animal health and disease diagnostics
5. Artificial insemination and embryo transfer
6. Fruit trees: Production of fruit trees through tissue culture
7. Ecological approaches and organic farming
8. Indigenous mushrooms research: Zimbabwe is endowed with several indigenous mushrooms in which commercial production is envisaged.
9. Herb project: Large-scale commercialization partner sought so as to go into tea bagging and development of formulated medicines based on herbs.

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