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Record breaking Potato Expo 2020 focuses industry on the future

From Jan. 14 through 15, more than 2,000 U.S. potato growers and industry members from a dozen countries turned out for Potato Expo 2020 at The Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., to do business and prepare their operations for the future.

Now in its 12th year, the annual Potato Expo has become the largest meeting of its kind in North America. The Potato Expo 2020 broke previous records with 2,019 attendees and 189 exhibitors covering more than 90,000 square feet in the Expo Hall.

“Though it started as a relatively small gathering of folks 12 years ago, this year’s record breaking event is evidence that Potato Expo has evolved to become the place for North American potato growers and value chain members to come together, share ideas, and do business,” said Potato Expo 2020 co-chairs Cully Easterday from Pasco, Wash. and Dan Moss from Declo, Idaho. “However, the Potato Expo isn’t about numbers – it’s about experiences. And this year we were pleased to offer the industry some new, unique opportunities to learn and grow their businesses.”

For the first time, the 2020 Expo Hall provided attendees with spaces specifically dedicated to networking, with five Meet-Up Lounges to have a conversation and recharge, as well as a coffee bar that was open throughout the show. The Expo Hall also featured a stage for “The Potato Talks,” a center of activity featuring engaging discussions and entertainment all centered around potatoes and potato production.

Potato Expo serves as a forum to foster collaboration between national and state potato associations, as well as the rest of the industry. Maintaining its reputation as a place to help better position the industry for the future, the Potato Expo 2020 addressed many pressing issues from evolving consumer trends to disruptions in agribusiness.

Technology and digital expert Erik Qualman discussed the habits that effective leaders use to thrive in today’s digital era. Mike Lee, co-founder and co-CEO of Alpha Food Labs and founder of The Future Market, shared his perspective on consumer behaviors that are shaping the future of food. David Parker, executive vice president of FLM Harvest, described current agribusiness trends and disruptors, and their implications on the future.

The fifth annual Spud Nation Throwdown chef cook-off, hosted by award-winning chef and best-selling author Chef Jeff Henderson, brought together an exciting fusion of tastes and flavors as a diverse group of chefs incorporated potatoes into their dishes.

The Throwdown included Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill Las Vegas’ Chef Daniel Stramm, Chef Robert “Stew” Stewart from the OWN Network’s “Raising Whitley” and Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “Cutthroat Kitchen,” and winner of Season 3 of “Hell’s Kitchen” on FOX, Chef Rock Harper. The Throwdown was won by Chef Harper with his dish featuring Patatas Bravas. 

The National Potato Council, the Potato Expo’s organizer, used the event to announce the launch of its new podcast, “Eye on Potatoes.” The podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts, provides a platform for growers throughout the country and policy makers in Washington to learn about the industry policy priorities and hear from growers and experts on the latest issues affecting the industry.

The event also served as platform to announce the creation of a new organization dedicated to growing future leaders who grow potatoes. The Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation (LEAF), a 501(c)3 organization, was launched by the industry as a way to provide tools, training, and support necessary to help growers and industry members develop as leaders.

The Foundation also serves to encourage members to commit their time and energy to the betterment of the U.S. potato industry as a whole. More information about Potato LEAF can be found at pleaf.org.

Potato Expo 2021 will be held January 6-7 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas. More information is available at www.potato-expo.com.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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