Investments boost productivity at Australian seed potato producer

GAINS: Agronico harvested 4,000 tonnes of seed potato. Picture: SuppliedJust a month into harvest and Australia’s biggest potato seed producer, Agronico, is reaping the benefits of recent investments through a 30 per cent increase in productivity. Agronico has invested heavily in its business over the past 12 months through its new coolstore at Spreyton and adding a four-row planter, canopied hoppers and twin-row harvesters to its fleet, chief executive Robert Graham said. “In the first three weeks 4,000 tonnes of seed potato were harvested with minimum downtime from rain, productivity has increased each year, but this is the best result so far,” he said. “At each stage of the process our efficiency is improving; harvest is quicker because of a combination of factors.” Agronico will continue to invest in infrastructure to support its capabilities. (Source: The Advocate)

Grant offers boost for Australian potato growers

Related imageA Yarloop potato grower in Australia says a $150,000 State Government grant for a custom-built washing/grading/packaging line will benefit the South West industry in that country. Fox Farms Pty Ltd owner Patrick Fox said his company had identified an opportunity overseas in Singapore and the Middle East to supply premium washed and brushed potatoes. “We are hoping that will relieve some of the pressure on the local market here at the moment as prices are at the lowest they have ever been,” he said. “We already currently export around three-and-a-half thousand tonne of seed potatoes and fresh processing potatoes. Mr Fox said he hoped the first shipment of washed potatoes would leave in August. “By the end of next year we expect to be exporting around 5000 tonne of fresh, washed potatoes,” he said. More

CropLogic makes potato market splash in Australia

Image result for CropLogic makes agricultural market splash in TasmaniaAgronomy service provider and aspiring agribusiness CropLogic has made a rather big splash in the Australian market, by acquiring privately-held company Ag Logic. CropLogic has just recently embarked on a value-accretive acquisition strategy aimed at absorbing productive agriculture technology businesses. Last year, CropLogic acquired US-based Professional Ag Services in order to gain access to approximately 60,000 acres or 30% of the potato market in Washington State, USA. Having completed its US deal last year, CropLogic quickly turned to Australia as its next port of call. CropLogic says that by replicating its market strategy in Tasmania, the company hopes to create similar operational efficiencies and generate similar commercial returns later this year. Tasmania’s potato yield per hectare is currently 31% above the national average and accounts for 76% of Australia’s total potato production each year. More

Government chips in cash to get West Australia’s potato industry cooking

Image result for western australia potatoWest Australia’s struggling potato industry is poised for recovery after the State Government chipped in nearly $750,000 towards expanding processing and exports. Four local growers and potato export and processing businesses will receive the money under the Potato Industry Assistance Grants program. Total private investment planned across these four projects is about $2.58 million. Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said most of the projects would source potatoes from other growers, meaning growth in these businesses would have wider benefits. WA Potato Growers Association chief executive Simon Moltoni said demand for WA potatoes would rise by tens of thousands of tonnes. WA growers produce about 85,000 tonnes a year, most for the fresh market, about a quarter of which is processed, exported or used for seed. More

Cutting edge: How Australian potato growers stay at the forefront of innovative research

Image result for AARON HABY australia potato growerThe Australian potato industry continues to be at the forefront of innovative research, with world-leading production practices resulting in increased efficiency and profitability on-farm. The high quality of Australian potato produce is made possible by ongoing investment in research and development, and this is once again highlighted in the latest edition of the publication “Grower Success Stories: Real results from the potato R&D levy.” In this edition, published by Horticulture Innovation Australia and AUSVEG, you will find examples of growers who have enjoyed real benefits and success as a result of their involvement in strategic levy investment projects under the Hort Innovation Fresh Potato and Potato Processing Funds. Read how grower John Jackson tapped into international expertise to combat the tomato potato psyllid (TPP) problem. Tasmanian seed potato grower Andrew Wilson is using a DNA-based soil testing service that helps growers with paddock and disease management planning. It has given him the confidence and peace of mind to manage existing crops and plan for future growth. It has not only identified potential disease borne soil, but allowed Andrew to switch potato varieties better suited to his soil.  Continue reading

Waste not: Potatoes South Australia partners with researchers to produce vodka from potato skins

The transformation of food waste with limited value to a premium product with high value is on the agenda through a project being undertaken by Potatoes South Australia, the University of Adelaide and Adelaide Hills Distillery. While potatoes are traditionally used to make vodka in many parts of the world, these three organisations are partnering to look into the feasibility of making vodka from potato skins – helping to increase returns for growers on what would otherwise be waste product. The University of Adelaide is undertaking research into the most effective technique to create vodka from peel, taking advantage of its extensive capabilities in analytical chemistry, wine science and sensory science, and starch profiling. This is being paired with the expertise of Adelaide Hills Distillery to turn it into beverage spirit. To read more about this project and the new value-adding opportunities it’s uncovering for potatoes, have a look at the February/March 2018 edition of Potatoes Australia magazine (page 18 of the online version). This article appeared in the AUSVEG Weekly Update published 20 March 2018.

West Australia’s potato farmers pin hopes on negative psyllid tests to regain market access

Related imagePotato farmers in West Australia (WA) could see Eastern States’ markets reopen in the near future which are still closed to WA following the tomato potato psyllid outbreak last year. Potato Growers Association of WA chief executive officer Simon Moltoni said the potato industry and State Government were working through the Transition to Management Plan, with the aim to reopen market access. “We still haven’t regained market access to the East coast,” Mr Moltoni said. “That’s been a major issue to our growers. During spring the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development undertook testing of psyllids, looking for the bacteria, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, which causes the damage to the crops. Mr Moltoni said those tests came back negative and if the autumn round of testing this March returned the same result, discussions could begin to reopen interstate markets. More

Potato industry in New Zealand valued at close to a billion dollars, CEO says

Potatoes New ZealandIn the latest Strategic Update report issued by Potatoes New Zealand, CEO Chris Claridge writes that the 2017 calendar year values and volumes are now available and the news is very positive. “Our total industry value to Dec 2017 including domestic retail sales, food service such as restaurants takeaway chips and exports, is closing on a Billion dollars per annum,” Claridge says. He notes that Potatoes New Zealand has two important key strategic goals which they are endeavouring to achieve by 2025, namely to double the value of fresh and processed New Zealand based exports by 2025, and to enhance the value of the domestic market by 50% by 2025. “In summary, when tracking performance at December 2017 we are well on track to achieve these goals,” Claridge says. Based on the levy received, the 2013 farm gate value was estimated at $103 million. The 2017 estimated farm gate value is now at a $170 million, showing an increase of 65%. “Evidence that increased market value is being returned at the farm gate,” says Claridge. Full report

Australian potato market opens up in Indonesia after trade discussions

Australian potato growers are winning new access to valuable Indonesian markets after a decade-long campaign opened the potential to export up to 85,000 tonnes of seed potatoes with a market value of some $110 million annually. A new agreement to take certified seed potatoes from South Australia and Victoria in Indonesia was made at recent trade discussions in Melbourne, following 10 years of negotiations between industry groups, growers, exporters and governments. It’s a valuable new market for local growers, according to Potatoes South Australia chief executive Robbie Davis, who believed the strong collaboration between the two states was key to sealing the deal. Potatoes had been on the Indonesian menu for many years, Ms Davies said, but the more affluent, middle classes were now experimenting in cooking with potatoes in new ways. More

West Australian farmers have lost millions one year on from tomato potato psyllid outbreak

A man in a blue work shirt and shorts standing in front of pallets of potatoes.Two West Australian farmers say they have each lost more than $1 million and have been forced to downsize their operations in the 12 months since the tomato potato psyllid was discovered near Perth. It has been a year since the Australia-first discovery, which is regarded as one of the most serious bio-security incidents in Western Australia’s horticultural history. A South West potato grower has halved operations and is restructuring his business after being forced to dump more than $1.1m of potatoes that could not leave the state. Responding to the psyllid and making a plan to live with it is expected to cost the State Government more than $3 million. Within days of the pest’s discovery, movement of plants and produce thought to be hosts of the psyllid were restricted within WA and to interstate markets. More

New Zealand potato field day: Spud expert peels UK industry

Related imageBoth New Zealand and Britain have their challenges when it comes to growing the humble spud, but from one side of the globe to the other they are quite different. Addressing growers at a PotatoesNZ and Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) field day in Mid Canterbury three weeks ago, British potato consultant John Sarup told growers 2017 had been a big year for potatoes in the United Kingdom. But with no market and at just NZ$57-$76 per tonne for un-contracted product, what’s the point in increasing the yield? “We did have limited contracts at up to $228, but the rest sold at $57. “There’s usually far too many potatoes grown, and most growers are only just making enough to invest back in.” PotatoesNZ chief executive Chris Claridge said the NZ industry had ended 2017 in a strong position, with the highest export volumes and values of recent years. Claridge highlighted real opportunity in frozen fries, especially into southeast Asia and Australia. But he said there was pressure on some of the best soils for potato production, and that was a big concern. More

Tomato-potato psyllid: Tough times for Western Australian spud growers

Pest problem: Tomato potato psyllid is still a major issue for potato growers in Western Australia, a year on from the outbreak.West  Australian potato growers are still counting the cost of losing market access to the eastern states a year after the tomato-potato psyllid (TPP) outbreak near Perth. Peak bodies are concerned the restrictions were too harsh, as the associated candidatus liberibacter solanacearum (CLso) bacterium, which TPP can be a vector for, has still not been found. Potato Growers Association chief executive Simon Moltoni said it had been a “devastating” year for farmers, but he hoped new action plans would help regain market access and ­increase education about how to manage the pest that could limit production. The outbreak of TPP forced government and industry bodies to ramp up biosecurity systems, but growers felt they were treated as if CLso — which causes zebra chip disease, producing dark brown stripes in potato tubers and rendering them unusable — had also been detected. More

Potato growers rejoice as Indonesia extends Australian seed potato access

Indonesia extends Australian seed potato accessThe Indonesian market beckons for Australian seed potato farmers, after market access to the South East Asian nation was extended today (16 February Indonesian/Australian time). The deal paves the way for suppliers from Victoria and South Australia to commence trade immediately. “This is a fantastic result for farmers in these two states — as major seed potato producers — and builds on current seed potato access for Western Australia,” explained Australian minister for agriculture and water resources, David Littleproud. “The export protocol has been on the boil for a while and today we finally got it over the line – this will take an industry with a current production value of A$520.3m, to new heights.” (Source: Fruitnet)

Australia: Turning potatoes into a convenience food

When consumers started to look for more convenient foods traditional staples such as potatoes became less popular. The pasta and rice marketers designed attractive packaging and sold the products well, while the humble potato didn’t really change at all and started to lose market share. “People began to overlook the potato and forget how versatile it really it is,” explains Susie Daly, potato producer from Daly Potatoes, Tasmania. “Schools no longer teach kids how to cook so many people don’t actually know what to do with them also these days people are busy they don’t want to stand and peel potatoes then wait for them to cook, they also want a bit of added flair.” “In addition to our gourmet potato salad rage which has been on the market for a couple of years, we have put together a range of simple potato dishes which are ready in a few minutes. They can be microwaved or heated in the oven, turning potatoes into a convenience food.” More