Smart tech: Portable new system designed to cut sprayer loading times and mistakes by automating chemical blending

Related imageFast loading times are critical for maximizing sprayer efficiency, but mistakes are also more likely to happen when loading in a hurry. An Iowa-based company, Praxidyn, has designed a portable, modular system to shorten the time it takes to blend chemicals and refill the sprayer, while also reducing the chances of errors by automating the process and recording what’s going into the tank. As CEO and owner Doug Applegate explains, the MixMate system measures volume by weight or flow, automatically recognizing when a jug is empty and reconciling actual volumes, accounting for residues left in a container (or a sloppy operator!) He says the jug system can drain, weigh, rinse, record and reconcile the data from a jug in about 12 seconds. “It’s pretty common to load a 1,200 gallon sprayer in about five minutes,” he says. The Android-based system records everything that goes through the MixMate and synchronizes it via Praxidyn’s Intersect cloud service, making it accessible from the office. Read more

Canada: Newtec potato grader simultaneously sorts by quality, size and shape

Celox-P-UHDDavid Main, biologist at Agriculture and Agri-food Canada on Prince Edward Island, is evaluating a new potato grader for potatoes this year. The machine is a Celox-P-UHD from Newtec. Main says a number of potato growers on Prince Edward Island are using Newtec’s Celox sorting machines now. The grader is designed to sort potatoes by size, shape and quality in a single-stage process. It sorts washed potatoes directly, eliminating the need for pre-grading and minimising the need for manual labor, whilst ensuring consistent quality and high throughput. Up to 13 categories of products can be sorted out simultaneously. Sorting criteria for these categories are instantly customisable according to the current needs. Premium product selections can effortlessly be sorted out of bulk produce.  Continue reading

New initiative looks at ways to develop ‘smart farms’ in Britain

Leeds University has launched its 'smart farms' initiative to encourage farmers to think modernA new initiative will work closely with the farming industry and government to explore ways to develop ‘smart farms’ in the UK. Farmers and agri-businesses are facing more challenges, including political climate changes, fluctuating trading patterns and the need to increase efficiency and productivity. The Smart Agri-Systems initiative spearheaded by the University of Leeds seeks to give rural businesses a competitive advantage and to increase value. The aim of the initiative is to work with farms and businesses to develop solutions, from advanced monitoring technology to big data analytics. Examples of smart farming to be looked at include the incorporation of sensors on the farm – either fixed, or on drones and robotic crawlers. These can monitor soil temperature and humidity, map crop growth and density, assess ground water composition, and track the weather, with data analysed to project crop performance. Read more

Solar Farms by Agri-Stor provide instant saving to growers

Hindsight has a way of making even the most brilliant of ideas seem obvious and elementary. It’s easy to wonder, “Why didn’t somebody think of this years ago?” In 2016, the folks at Agri-Stor Companies called a meeting to address what was, at the time, a depressed potato market. The Twin Falls, Idaho-based company has developed and built potato storages for over 50 years. There is a prevailing belief at Agri-Stor that they have a responsibility to help growers succeed in whatever ways they can. So in that stressful economic environment for the region’s potato industry, the Agri-Stor folks were looking for solutions just as earnestly as growers were. Jesse Vierstra is a forward-thinking kind of guy. Though he was still a fairly new hire at Agri-Stor at the time, he spoke up and voiced a big idea in that meeting: “Why don’t we get into solar?”  Continue reading

Syngenta develops RNA-based biocontrols for crop improvement

Image result for colorado potato beetleSyngenta is developing a new line of biocontrols based on RNA. The biocontrol can be designed to be very selective so that it only affects the target pest(s). So when it is sprayed onto the plant the biocontrol targets a crop pest such as the Colorado Potato Beetle, which can destroy entire crops; our initial data indicate that beneficial insects and even closely related species are not harmed. The RNA-based biocontrol is then broken down in the environment and does not affect the plant. Syngenta is committed to being transparent in how they are developed and to periodically make its data available. Syngenta is the first agrochemical company to share RNA-based biocontrols research as open data in order to engage in a new type of dialogue with scientists and researchers. Syngenta partners with the Open Data Institute to publish their data to the best practice standards in the industry. This data can be used by anyone for research and analysis. Watch how the biocontrol works on Colorado potato beetle. Read more

Emerging economies fuel potato peeler and slicer equipment market

The humble potato has long been a staple of the hospitality industry palette, and accordingly to prepare this and other vegetables on a commercial scale requires specialist appliances. But what is the market outlook for this type of kit – should manufacturers be entering the sector or upping their stocks, or should distributors be sitting up and taking note of any trends? To assist any curious minds, India-based research company 360 Market Updates has published the ‘Potato Peeler and Slicer Equipment Market Report’, focusing on the potato processing equipment sold by distributors to end users in commercial and industrial set-ups. The research focuses on the 2017-2021 period and forecasts a compound annual growth rate of 7.66% throughout that term. According to the research firm, this positive prediction is mainly due to increasing replacement demand from developed economies, the growing number of foodservice establishments, and rising demand for new units of potato peeler and slicer equipment from emerging economies.  Continue reading

The Netherlands: Tiny country; agricultural giant – showing what the future of farming could look like

Related imageIn a potato field near the Netherlands’ border with Belgium, Dutch farmer Jacob van den Borne is seated in the cabin of an immense harvester before an instrument panel worthy of the starship Enterprise. From his perch 10 feet above the ground, he’s monitoring two drones—a driverless tractor roaming the fields and a quadcopter in the air—that provide detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth, measuring the progress of every plant down to the individual potato. Van den Borne’s production numbers testify to the power of this “precision farming,” as it’s known. The global average yield of potatoes per acre is about nine tons. Van den Borne’s fields reliably produce more than 20. That copious output is made all the more remarkable by the other side of the balance sheet: inputs. Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.” Since 2000, van den Borne and many of his fellow farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent. How on Earth have the Dutch done it? Read the full article in National Geographic

Growing food for a growing planet: Three perspectives on modern American farming

Image result for Growing food for a growing planet: Three perspectives on American farmingToday’s agriculture is going through an important revolution. From tech breakthroughs like smart irrigation to robot-enabled harvesting, the industry is using new innovations to help feed a growing population. And it’s a big job. The United Nations says global food output must increase by 60 percent over the next three decades to keep up with the boom. As modern farming evolves, a diverse range of players is stepping up to this challenge with unique approaches to growing sustainable food. There’s Bill Horan, a farmer for decades, who continuously adapts and embraces new technologies, with an eye toward helping future generations carry on the farming tradition. Jay Hill is bringing a fresh sense of entrepreneurship to his traditional farming practice and using social media to show the world all the hard work—and fun—that are part of farming life. And Abbey Carver, an agronomist and recent college grad, is part of the next generation of tech-enabled growers. She mixes her knowledge of ag-tech and hard science with a passion for the land to help keep the world sustainably fed. Read about these people’s perspectives on modern farming in America in this Washington Post article

The new ‘plastic’: These potato based biodegradable bags dissolve in water, burn like paper, and are edible

envigreen1Bags made of potatoes could replace plastic as the biodegradable and recyclable alternative for grocery bags in India – a country where slow yet firm steps are being taken towards getting rid of plastic grocery bags. These environment friendly bags are manufactured and distributed in several cities in India by startup business EviGreen. The bags look like plastic bags, but are made of materials like natural potato and tapioca starch and vegetable oil derivatives. If placed in a glass of water at normal temperature, an EnviGreen bag dissolves in a day. And when placed in a glass of boiling water, it dissolved in just 15 seconds. These bags take less than 180 days to biodegrade naturally once discarded. So users can throw them away without worrying about harming the environment. The bags are even edible and will cause no harm to animals if ingested.  Continue reading

Tiny but effective: Researchers developed new nano-material as potato sprout inhibitor

Related imageIn a research paper published recently online in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, scientists from Hefei Institute of Physical Science in China claim they have developed a nano-material that inhibits the sprouting of potatoes. The material is named “hydrophobic nano silica” (H-SiO2) and was developed through the modification of nano silica by amino silicon oil (ASO) – and then applied as a sprout inhibitor on potato tubers. The researchers say the material suppresses the formation of toxic glyco-alkaloids that typically is associated with the sprouting process. They further claim that treated tubers did not show a negative effect as far as germination is concerned when planted as seed. The material is said to be easily removed by washing prior to cooking since it does not penetrate the skin of tubers and thus does not pose a food safety risk. Although not commercialized at this point in time, the new material does seem to be of interest to those who specializes in potato sprout inhibitors. An abstract of the research and contact details can be found on the website of the ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering journal.

Spray focus: Application methods the hot topics at SPot West field day

Image result for chemical sprayer potatoesThe first field walk of SPot West’s 2018 programme organized by AHDB Potatoes in the UK focussed on chemical control of PCN and Rhizoctonia as growers and agronomists met at Heal Farms, Shropshire to hear the latest developments on local research. Dr Matthew Back of Harper Adams University presented his research, which has shown that PCN attack helps attract the Rhizoctonia fungus towards the tuber stolons. A second demonstration compared different methods and depths of incorporating Nemathorin. The strip with incorporation to about 15cm on the bed tiller looked relatively good, but this could have been due to local variation, and treatment differences will become more apparent as the season continues. PCN initial egg counts range from 25-63, quite enough to stress Lady Rosetta in the current heat wave. Scott Cockburn of Syngenta led on a practical spraying demonstration. RVW Pugh kindly provided a Fendt sprayer, which compared four different types of nozzle at 2bar pressure. Read more

Key Technology appoints Bret Larreau as Director of Latin America and Asia Sales

Key Technology, a member of the Duravant family of operating companies, announces the promotion of Bret Larreau to the position of Director of Latin America and Asia Sales. Larreau is responsible for managing Key’s sales activities in the Latin America, Asia Pacific and Australia/New Zealand regions to bring the company’s digital sorters, vibratory conveyors and other automation systems to food processors and other manufacturers. In addition to managing sales in these regions, Larreau will continue to support Key’s close relationship with PepsiCo’s global business as their Major Account Manager. “This InterContinental region is extremely important to Key – we’ve got a strong foundation with experienced sales and service teams and an impressive installed base of equipment. We are positioned for growth with our best-in-class VERYX® sorters and Iso-Flo® conveyors, since processors in these regions increasingly want sophisticated technologies to improve product quality and food safety as well as yields as they compete globally for business,” said Steve Pellegrino, Senior Vice President of Global Sales at Key.  Continue reading

Global potato industry invited to come and share ‘Ideas, Impulses and Innovations’ at PotatoEurope 2018

PotatoEurope 2018 takes place near Hanover, Germany, September 13-14, expecting 184 exhibitors from 13 countries and over 10,000 visitors from all over the world. PotatoEurope 2018, the event for the international potato industry, is held in Germany every four years. The trade fair, organized by the DLG (German Agricultural Society) in cooperation with the German Potato Industry Union (UNIKA), will again take place at Rittergut Bockerode Estate in Springe-Mittelrode, near Hanover. “We are very pleased that 184 exhibitors from 13 countries have registered so far, which is about 10 percent more than at this stage in 2014,” said Peter Grothues, managing director of the DLG exhibitions department. Grothues added that the high level of international participation at PotatoEurope 2018 was particularly pleasing. “More than 70 exhibitors, about 40%, are attending from outside Germany,” he said. Under the theme “Ideas, Impulses and Innovations”, for example, potato growers will find first-hand information for the production of high-quality products. Read more

Mushy no more: Lamb Weston’s solution for the ‘soggy fry’ unveiled

Image result for soggy french friesA french fry gets soggy in 5 minutes. Lamb Weston wants to keep it crispy for 60. Its customers, like McDonald’s and Yum Brands, the owner of KFC, are increasingly teaming up with on-demand delivery services. But travel is brutal for French fries, especially when they’re squeezed next to a cold drink and a warm burger in a paper bag. The company’s basic French fries will stay crunchy for about five minutes. It has recently introduced a new variety with a special batter that can keep crispy for close to an hour — even after being microwaved at home. Lamb Weston believes the meal delivery trend in China will go global, and wants to be ready. Lamb Weston had already developed a French fry batter that could keep fries crispy for 12 minutes. So food scientists at the company’s laboratory in Richland began tinkering with the recipe to extend a fry’s life even longer. Read more

McCain NZ pilot programme puts the power into potatoes

Image result for Pilot programme in Timaru puts the power into potatoesThe humble potato is in for a shocking multi-million dollar makeover in New Zealand. An industry pilot programme worth almost $16.8 million, is being trialled at McCain Foods in Washdyke, Timaru, in what has been described as “electrocuting potatoes“. The three month test of the new Pulsed Electric Field Technology (PEF) machine, from Germany, began in Timaru on Wednesday and involves industrial-scale food processing of the popular french fry. The machine uses a brief electric pulse to modify and disrupt the membranes of cells in plant or animal material. The aim is to produce healthier fries as the potatoes absorb less oil during the cooking process after having the PEF treatment. The electric field being pulsed through uncut potatoes during processing alters their microstructure, which results in a more controlled release of sugar, more uniform coloration and reduced oil uptake. Read more