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‘A new dawn for potatoes, rooted in innovation’: Intention to establish a National Potato Innovation Centre in Scotland

The establishment of an intended National Potato Innovation Centre (NPIC) at The James Hutton Institute in Scotland was announced earlier this year. The NPIC will involve the whole industry working together to deliver new improvements to potato production.

The centre will comprise a state-of-the art-innovation hub that will work in partnership with all stakeholders. Based in Scotland, but with national and international partners, NPIC will generate a creative cluster to create new varieties, more sustainable solutions, innovative products and high skilled jobs in new industries.

Prof Ian Toth at The James Hutton Institute recently took on the role of Director of the NPIC. Speaking at the recent Potatoes in Practice event in Dundee, Prof Toth voiced confidence in the feasibility of the establishment of the National Potato Innovation Centre. He expects that, with the right investments and collaborations, the facility could be operational within the next three to five years.

The Role of Potatoes in Global Food Security

Prof Ian Toth

“In an era marked by escalating food security concerns, potatoes emerge as a beacon of hope,” Prof Toth told Potato News Today.

“Many nations rely on potato as a major food source with those such as China and India, as well as regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, integrating potatoes into their strategic blueprints to ensure a consistent and sustainable supply of nutritious food.

“The imperatives of climate change and biodiversity conservation necessitate the rapid development of crop varieties that are both resilient and sustainable. Potatoes, with their inherent adaptability, are primed to lead this agricultural transformation,” he says.

The James Hutton Institute’s Leading Role

The James Hutton Institute, internationally acclaimed for its potato science expertise, is ideally suited to spearhead the establishment of the National Potato Innovation Centre. The institute’s vast experience in potato breeding, combined with its stewardship of the unique Commonwealth Potato Collection, makes it the ideal institution to drive this initiative. This collection, comprising wild relatives and land races, offers a rich genetic reservoir, especially considering that most commercial potato varieties trace their origins to a single species.

The Vision for the National Potato Innovation Centre (NPIC)

The NPIC is envisioned as a nexus of innovation and research in the realm of potato science.

Prof Toth says “While the details of our research will be determined through discussion with industry, we will focus on three main pillars of research.

“The first of these will be discovery and breeding, using modern techniques to exploit the rich genetic diversity we have in the Commonwealth Potato Collection.

“We will further develop resilient production systems through improved management systems to help protect the environment and optimise production in a changing world.

“Lastly, we will investigate alternative potato products from plant-based proteins and plastics through to novel products for use in medicine or cosmetics industry.

“By fostering cutting-edge research, the centre aims to revolutionize the potato supply and value chains, and with a collection that comprises 80 of the world 120 potato species we have an amazing opportunity to do this,” say Prof Toth.

“We will also be a champion for extoling the virtues of potato in encouraging young people into all aspects of the potato value chain from research through to industry and aim for the emergence of entrepreneurial ventures and startups through to advanced training programs.”

Outcomes and Impact

Operational Blueprint of the NPIC

The NPIC’s operational strategy is rooted in a holistic and inclusive approach. It aims to work in close collaboration with a wide range of national and international stakeholders, ensuring that solutions are co-constructed and tailored to the industry’s needs.

Economic Benefits and Costing

The centre will attract inward investments, leading to job creation and the establishment of new businesses. Preliminary economic analyses indicate a strong case for the project, with a potential benefit-cost ratio (BCR) exceeding 2.0. The estimated cost for building and equipping the NPIC ranges between £62.1 to £77.0 million.

The NPIC Pledge Tree

The James Hutton Institute has initiated a pledge tree to gather signatures of support for the establishment of the NPIC. This growing collection underscores the widespread recognition of the potato’s importance to the economy and livelihoods.

“With the combined efforts of institutions like the James Hutton Institute and the vast genetic resources at their disposal, the establishment of the National Potato Innovation Centre in Scotland is not just a vision but a tangible goal,” says Prof Toth.

“The future of potato research and innovation in Scotland, and by extension the world, looks bright,” he concludes.

Sources: The James Hutton Institute | Prof Ian Toth
Photo: Credit Henry Gartley from Pixabay
Prof Ian Toth
+44 (0) 7702 154764

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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