International potato industry returns to Germany for PotatoEurope 2018

Related imagePotatoEurope 2018, the event for the international potato industry, returns to Germany on 12th and 13th September. PotatoEurope , which is an annual exhibition, is held in Germany every four years. This top trade fair for potato professionals, organized by the DLG (German Agricultural Society) in cooperation with the German Potato Industry Union (UNIKA), will again take place this year 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.  Continue reading

New print magazine aimed at the global potato industry announced

Dear folks, as some of you already know by now, a new print magazine aimed at the international potato industry will be published in early September this year. The magazine will be titled “Global Potato News“. I will function as the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine. We are interested then to hear from individuals and companies who might want to submit an article, or place an advertisement in the magazine – I can discuss article format with you, or send along a media kit right away if you wish. The theme of the launch issue will be “Trends in the global potato industry“. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have an interest in this?
Spud greetings from Canada,
Lukie Pieterse

‘Electrocuted’: Pilot programme in New Zealand puts the power into potatoes

The Pulsed Electric Field Technology (PEF) machine on display at McCain Foods in Washdyke.The humble potato is in for a shocking multi-million dollar South Canterbury makeover. An industry pilot programme, part of the Ministry for Business and Innovation funded Food Industry Enabling Technology (FIET) 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. Otago University researchers are leading the pilot trial on potato processing – with initial research showing promising results for minimising waste through having fewer broken chips during processing.  Continue reading

Red rescue: USDA helps ease excess red potato supply

Image result for northern plains red potatoesThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will reportedly purchase $3 million in red potatoes for nutrition assistance programs. National Potato Council Executive Vice-President and CEO John Keeling confirms the purchase, noting that’s the equivalent of 20,000 hundredweight of red potatoes. “We worked with USDA over the past couple of weeks to get them the information about what the real surplus was and then, what would be needed to be removed. And then, what time was remaining to be able to do that because we are getting late. Potatoes have been in storage for a while now.” A few weeks ago, Associated Potato Growers said they will have 50,000 hundredweight of potatoes that need a home. This purchase could help, but there’s still an excess of fresh spuds in the Red River Valley. The red potato issue was brought to Congressman Kevin Cramer’s attention by the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association (NPPGA) of East Grand Forks, Minnesota.  Continue reading

Underhanded down under? Australian wholesaler accused of ‘unfair’ potato contracts

Related imageAustralia’s largest potato wholesaler, Mitolo, is facing legal action after being accused of entering into unfair contracts with its potato farmer suppliers. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Tuesday said it had started Federal Court proceedings against the South Australian-based company – the first legal action taken under the recently introduced Horticulture Code. Mitolo, a major supplier to Woolworths and Coles, is facing allegations of unfair contract terms including signing exclusive supply contracts that allow it to vary prices unilaterally and prevent farmers from selling to other buyers. ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said Mitolo’s exclusive contracts also did not specificy how and when the price of potatoes would be determined. “These are some of the most egregious terms we have seen in agricultural contracts, and are key examples of the contracting practices in the sector that we want to address,” Mr Keogh said. Read more

Following the trend: Californian company goes all-in on organic potatoes

Image result for Top Brass goes all-in on organic potatoesTop Brass Produce, based in Bakersfield, CA, is the official sales agent for Vignolo Farms, which is celebrating its 80th birthday this year. “We have been farming organic grapes and potatoes for several years and are committed to organics,” said Brett Dixon, president of Top Brass. “The largest news this year is that we converted 100 percent of our potato business to organics. Now we only grow and sell organic potatoes out of the central valley of California. We offer red, yellow, and russet potatoes. Thankfully potatoes are trending up and have been for Top Brass,” Dixon said. According to him, it just made too much sense not to go in this direction. With the upcoming Organic Produce Summit on its schedule, some of Top Brass’ leaders are looking forward to meeting with their colleagues and customers to talk about why the company decided to move away from conventional potatoes and focus exclusively on organic.“It has been extremely rewarding to see consumers embrace organic produce,” Dixon said. Read more

Leafy solution: Why foliar feeding of nutrients is an efficient way to meet crop needs

Related image“In today’s agricultural climate, efficiency is the name of the game. Rising input costs including fuel, seed, pesticides and fertilizer are driving potato growers to utilize technologies that more economically produce strong returns on the dollars invested.” So says Jimmy Ridgeway (Crop Manager –  Potato at Yara North America) in the latest toppotato newsletter. Foliar feeding is a technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to their leaves. Plants are able to absorb essential elements through their leaves. Ridgeway writes that while there is no substitute for a sound soil fertility program, there are many occasions when applying foliar nutrients is a much more efficient way to meet the crop’s needs at critical development periods. Several factors affect the availability of soil-applied plant nutrients, including everything from mechanical root damage to complex soil chemistry. Continue reading

Trade spat: Mexican judge bars US potato imports into Mexico

Related imageMexico Daily News reported minutes ago that a federal judge has barred the import of fresh potatoes from the United States today on national security and bio-security grounds. The decision, made by José Francisco Pérez Mier of the Seventh District Court in Los Mochis, Sinaloa — a potato-producing state, overturned a 2016 decision adopted by the Secretariat of Agriculture (Sagarpa) to allow potato imports from Mexico’s northern neighbor. The judge said that Sagarpa’s reform to the Federal Law on Plant Health was unconstitutional because it didn’t include measures to protect against the introduction of plant diseases and therefore posed a threat to national sovereignty and security and crops such as chiles, tomatoes, eggplants and tobacco. The domestic potato industry could disappear if fresh potato imports from the United States continue, Pérez said. The amparo or injunction he handed down said the lack of protective measures “implies an imminent risk of plagues spreading on national soil.”  Continue reading

Spud debate: How diverse are the genes of the potato?

Related imageThe potato is a crop vital to feeding the teeming human species worldwide. When colonialism first disseminated the spud widely from its South American beginnings, it became a staple crop of a booming global population of billions. When it failed, like with fungal blight of the mid-19thcentury in Northern Europe and Ireland, millions died or were displaced. The 21st century implications are clear: as billions more people are going to need sustenance, the rich source of a wide swath of vitamins and minerals is likely to be as important as ever. At the same time, some critics have pointed out that the dangers of mono-cultures proven by privations of the past have yet to be learned by societies great and small. All this is to say that plant biologists have a tuber controversy on their hands as deep as the DNA of the spud itself. The latest scientific debate has played out in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences. Read more


Winds of change: Is America ready for a new potato?

Related imageFrom the Russet to the red and yellow, to specialty potato varieties, the US is a large producer and consumer of potatoes. In recent years, more people are seeking out new varieties and there is an increasing focus on flavor. One US-based company has been tasked with distributing one of the newest varieties of potatoes – the Huckleberry Gold. Grown in Idaho, Washington and Oregon, the Huckleberry Gold is a cross breed of European and American varieties. “The Huckleberry Gold is a purple-skinned, yellow-flesh potato that has been cultivated in the Northwest by our grower partner,” said Harris Cutler of Race-West, the company chosen to distribute the variety. “Every year they try out different varieties and last August, they began harvesting the Huckleberry Gold. The company grow for flavor and this year they are working on an all-purple potato.” “The parentage of the Huckleberry is fascinating,” he added.  Continue reading

28,000t of potatoes from a family farm in Ireland

Tillage focus: 28,000t of potatoes from a family farm in Co. KilkennyOver the past 45 years, O’Shea Farms has progressed from a family partnership of four brothers – Dick, John, Séamus and Joe O’Shea – to a business with a turnover of €60 million per year. The company processes 28,000t of potatoes each year at its base in Piltown, Co. Kilkenny. Iverk Produce, a sister company, distributes 90% of the potatoes and vegetables produced to Aldi. O’Shea Farms is also a sole supplier of carrots to SuperValu. Iverk Produce was formed in the 1980s. Fyffes (Total Produce) then came on board and Iverk Produce became a major distributor of fruit and vegetables to supermarkets across the country. Between the two businesses, 200 people are employed; a further 250 people are employed by local growers who supply Iverk Produce. Needless to say it’s a big operation, and AgriLand was lucky enough to get a glimpse into this monster business on a recent Agricultural Science Association (ASA) tour, sponsored by Glanbia and Total Produce. Read more

Scots charging: New and ambitious growth strategy announced for the potato, vegetable and fruit sector in Scotland

From left - James Withers, Fergus Ewing and Allan BowieA group of leading businesses and organisations in Scotland’s potato, fruit, and vegetable industry have come together for the first time to create an ambitious new growth strategy for the sector. Announced over the weekend, Planting the Seeds of Growth identifies the key recommendations to grow the potato, fruit, and vegetable sector by 2030, bringing not just economic benefits but benefits to the nation’s health and to the environment as well. This move by the sector compliments Scotland’s food and drink strategy, Ambition 2030, which aims to double the value of the industry by 2030. The Fruit, Vegetable and Potato Industry Leadership Group (ILG) is the driving force behind the strategy. Allan Bowie, Chair of the Fruit, Vegetable and Potato Industry Leadership Group, said: “There is huge potential for our fruit, vegetable and potato sector to grow, and by bringing leaders from across the industry round the table, we are proud to present this ambitious strategy which is the result of 12 months’ hard work. Read more

Let’s automate, mate: South Australian potato company partners with automation specialists to bring field to fork

Related imageThe South Australian Potato Company, founded by the Raschella family in that region, has been supplying potatoes for “every recipe, every occasion and every season for more than 20 years,” they say. Dealing with more than 60, 000 tons of potatoes annually obviously requires quality automation by reliable suppliers to ensure always-on productivity and extreme care with this wholesome produce. When looking to kit out its factory – which does everything from washing and sorting to weighing and packaging potatoes – The South Australian Potato Company eventually looked to SMC as its preferred supplier. Jay Dawson, maintenance manager for the company says: “In selecting the perfect automation partner we look to deciding factors such as an excellent, broad product range, superior technical expertise, a factory maintenance plan, a reputable brand that aligns with ours and a company that is innovative and keeps up with the trends. SMC fitted the bill to the tee.” Read more

Drone tech in practice: Belgian service provider employs drones to improve assessment of seed varieties

Image result for IMAGE ANALYTICS FOR OBJECTIVE PLANT VARIETY ASSESSMENTAs Belgium’s biggest service provider for agriculture and horticulture, AVEVE is continuously looking for innovative solutions. In plant breeding, specialists are looking to improve the objective quality assessment of new crop seed varieties. With mapEO, a new image processing solution for drone based phenotyping, AVEVE specialists can scale up their seed and agronomy expertise and offer the best possible varieties for every farmer. In one of their experimental fields in Belgium AVEVE grows 350 different plant varieties on 2,100 trial plots. With mapEO they use drone data to objectively monitor and evaluate the growth, health and evolution of new seed varieties. Instead of walking through all the experimental fields to check the plant characteristics, mapEO allows them to conduct their own drone flights or order a mapEO certified pilot to collect necessary data at set times using various cameras. As a result, they have an archive of images of all test plots. AVEVE  is active in Belgium, The Netherlands, France and Germany. Read more

Upbeat: Canadian potato growers feeling cautiously optimistic this season

Potato growers across Canada are reportedly feeling optimistic this season as increased demand for their product has created some newfound enthusiasm. The economic crash of 2008 reduced demand for Canadian spuds in some markets and the industry struggled to regain its lost footing. With the 2018 growing season well under way, there now seems to be a renewed sense of optimism among many Canadian potato growers. Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC), says the increase is largely attributable to processing companies like McCain and Simplot expanding their production lines in this country. “The acreage in Canada will have to increase just to take care of the processing expansion that’s been occurring in several places. To accommodate that, our acreages will have to increase somewhere between two to four per cent for 2018,” says MacIsaac. The news isn’t all good, however. A situation that bears watching is the ongoing trade discussions between Canada and the United States. Read more