After leaving college Tim worked as an Ag Inspector in the Valley, where he gained great experience on a whole range of fruit crops. This experience demonstrated to him that there was huge scope to improve current table grape varieties and so he joined Superior Farming Company (which later became Sun World) as a breeder, working alongside the legendary John H. Weinberger (breeder of Flame Seedless, Friar Plums and a whole range of other grape and stone fruit varieties). He worked with Prof Weinberger for several years but his ambition was to set up as a private breeder focusing solely on table grapes.
Tim then set about canvassing investors to help fund his new table grape program which would concentrate on two key attributes – improved eating quality for consumers and productivity and ease of production for growers through lower labor inputs.
One of these investors was the AMC Group from Spain, who realized that the future success of grape production would depend on the creation of new varieties, and this at a time when state and university funded plant breeding were in serious decline and plant breeding was moving into the private sector. It was clear to AMC that, if they wanted to have access to the very best new varieties, then they had to invest in breeding.
Tim’s first step was to travel the world to look for potential parent material for his new program and he so he began to develop a genepool of diverse varieties. He started making crosses in the late nineties and over just a few years had created a few thousand seedlings. AMC became closely involved with Tim in the evaluation and assessment of these new seedlings and soon it was apparent that there were several potential new high-performance varieties in Tim’s collection.
Sadly, Tim passed away in 2009 but his legacy was in place and Sheehan Genetics, now wholly owned by AMC, continued the evaluation process. AMC formed a specialist company, Special New Fruit Licensing (SNFL) to concentrate fully on the Sheehan program and to date some 25 patented varieties have been developed from Tim’s original breeding program.