Across Regions, News November 2022, North America, Production/Agronomy, Smart Farming, Sustainability

A ‘Star Trek’ for potatoes: Can McCain’s hi-tech farm in Canada save french fries from the climate crisis?

Researchers are reportedly flocking to Canada’s New Brunswick province to test both cutting-edge and bygone methods of spud cultivation to meet a challenging future, as Dominic Rushe reports for The Guardian.

McCain’s “Farm of the Future” in the province is one of a series of laboratories the company plans to roll out across the world as it tests what practices are best suited to saving potatoes, while cutting the company’s carbon emissions. Another farm is being set up in South Africa as well.

The different geographies will allow McCain to assess different environments. The model farm feels a little like ‘Star Trek’ for potatoes: An international, multicultural crew armed with laptops, sensors and drones boldly going where no potato farmer has gone before.

The farm is also trialing initiatives to reduce tilling, which enables the soil to retain more organic matter. Cover crops have been planted to protect the field once the potatoes have been harvested. Dr Manphool Fageria, senior scientist at the farm, says a diverse variety of crops, grasses, brassicas and legumes are used to improve soil health.

This project will not matter if farmers don’t buy into the change, according to Max Koeune, McCain’s CEO and president. Koeune says, “farmers are not interested in concepts. It has to be tangible. We have to do it, show that it works and prove that it’s economically viable,” he says. “Farmers believe what they see.”

Source: The Guardian. Read the extensive article here
Photo: Workers sorting potatoes at the McCain ‘Farm of the Future’ in Florenceville, Canada. Credit Adetona Omokanye/The Guardian

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