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Global Potato Industry Award winners announced at the 12th World Potato Congress in Adelaide, Australia

On Tuesday, June 25, following the 12th World Potato Congress in Adelaide, Australia, an Industry Award Ceremony was held to recognize nine remarkable individuals who have devoted their life’s work to the potato industry.   WPC President Dr. Peter VanderZaag presented the awards at the sold-out closing Gala Dinner with over 800 attendees at the iconic Adelaide Oval.
 
The nine Global Industry Award winners were:  Nelio Campelio, Philippines; Walter Davidson, Canada; Abd-Allah Md Dhaif-Allah, Yemen; Dr. Paul Horne, Australia; Dr. Liping Jin, China; Dr. Mohinder Singh Kadian, India, Frank Mitolo, Australia; Alan Pye, Australia, Dengshe (Don) Wang, China.

Nelio Campelio, Philippines
Mr. Campelio adopted the Apical Rooted Cutting technique and established a family business with greenhouses to produce plantlets for growers. He was an early adopter of the new late blight and PVY resistant variety “Igorota” in 1992, that transformed potato production. This is the first example of a locally bred variety being multiplied to meet the farmer’s demand without importing seed from Europe or North America.

                

The major hurdle in the rapid diffusion of the variety Igorota was overcome by Nelio and his family due to their ARC seed production venture. They started producing Igorota seed tubers in 1992. By 2010, over 50% of the highland potato crop was grown with Igorota. Nelio, an active farmer-cooperator of NPRCRTC since 1990,

Initially, he made an improvised greenhouse in Buguias, Benquet and multiplied apical cuttings from in-vitro plants sourced from NPRCRTC. His planting materials were of good quality and became popular with other farmers. made an improvised greenhouse in Buguias, Benquet and multiplied apical cuttings from in-vitro plants sourced from NPRCRTC. His planting materials were of good quality and became popular with other farmers.

Today Nelio and his family continue to lead the ARC technology and provide either rooted cuttings or minitubers of the varieties wanted by fellow growers including the old staple variety Granola. He compliments NPRCRTC’s work in providing the high-quality pathogen free tissue culture planting materials.

He works closely with the national research centers who provide the tissue culture pathogen free starting material for his business. He runs a successful family business that has positively impacted most communities in the highlands.

Walter Davidson, Canada
Walter Davidson was born in Aughton Lancashire, England. He served in the British Army during his teenage years. He had the opportunity in 1956 to immigrate to Canada Walter arrived in Canada with $15.00 in his pocket. Upon arrival, Walter began working on a farm that dealt primarily with cattle and grain but eventually moved on to growing potatoes on about fifty acres. When the Crang family decided to sell, Walter and his wife Linda started his dream vision and bought the farm. From there they grew his dream to what it is today, W.D. Potato Limited.

W.D. Potato Limited is a $120 million, third generation family-owned business that has a large storage and transportation facility situated on a 150-acre site located in the heart of Beeton, Ontario. WD Potato Limited has been in the business of potatoes for more than 50 years. Walter has a great depth of knowledge and experience in growing, handling, storing, and transporting potatoes for the chip processing industry in both the USA and Canada.

Walter has always been a man of his word; he believes a handshake seals a deal. He has built a relationship with a network of forty-five processing chips and seed growers, increased storage and wash capabilities and has a dedicated fleet of trucks to provide the business.

Walter and his wife Linda are true believers in giving back to the community in which they have prospered. The vision of WD Potato Ltd is to work together and build long-lasting, beneficial and rewarding relationships. Walter and Linda have carried this same vision into their community by supporting the local memorial hospital and the people in which it serves, along with supporting local sports organizations and charities.

Abd-Allah Md Dhaif-Allah, Yemen
Mr. Aliah is a potato entrepreneur who has successfully built a potato business over the last 34 years supporting the greater community of the Thamar Valley with excellent seed potatoes of the preferred varieties for many farmers. Furthermore, he has employed many local people in his business, giving them food security and good wages. He had been a great blessing to the Thamar Valley economy.

By 2023 he had built an excellent potato storage with eleven rooms storing with a total capacity of 3800 tonnes. This facility has cold storage rooms allowing longer term storage of seed potatoes. He also grows over one hundred hectares of seed potatoes.

He is also closely working with the university and the government extension service on assuring that the fields grown for seed are properly inspected and roguing is done of virus infected plants as well as black leaf infected plants.

The continued war and civil unrest in Yemen make his work even more extraordinary! Awarded by the President of Yemen as the best farmer for potato and wheat as rotation in Thamar valley in 2018, we are proud to honor Mr. Aliah for his work in addressing food security in his country through potatoes.

Dr. Paul Horne, Australia
As a distinguished applied entomologist, Dr. Horne initiated his impactful career in 1986 at the Victorian Department of Agriculture, later establishing. IPM Technologies P/L in 1996—an industry leader in integrated pest management.

Dr. Horne’s unique methodology, blending technical proficiency with a practical focus on growers, has generated tangible solutions in agriculture. His influence is particularly notable in potato crops, where he leads integrated pest management for various insect pests, including potato virus vectors like aphids and thrips. His adept guidance aids growers in managing caterpillar pests, such as the notorious potato moth, through the application of IPM principles. Ongoing research addresses challenges posed by the Tomato Potato Psyllid, a vector linked to Zebra Chip disease, ensuring preparedness for effective pest management in regions like Australia and with immediate application in areas such as New Zealand.

Under Dr. Horne’s leadership, IPM Technologies has markedly reduced pesticide reliance, advocating sustainable pest management practices. His influence extends to fostering improved stewardship in the judicious and environmentally responsible use of pesticides.

Dr. Horne’s knowledge-sharing has positioned him as a trusted authority, impacting the global entomological community. His dedication, grower-friendly approach, and achievements, spanning from the Victorian Department of Agriculture to his current leadership at IPM Technologies, undeniably merit recognition.

Dr. Liping Jin, China
Dr LIping Jin has bred and released over thirty potato varieties for table and processing. She has published over 150 scientific papers and supervised more than twenty graduate students. She is the principal scientist of China Agriculture Research System-Potato under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Over the last 30 years she successfully developed an extraordinary team of scientists and extensionists to promote potato research and development across all of China with great success.
Under her leadership the potato crop growing area in China has increased and stabilized to about 4,800,000 ha, and average yield increased from 15 to 21 t/ha.

She also received the National Poverty Alleviation Innovation Award, and the National Innovation Excellence Medal. Her most significant and gratifying thing would be that the cultivars and technologies she bred or led had been widely used by farmers and entrepreneurs in many areas of the country.

Dr. Mohinder Singh Kadian, India
Dr. Mohinder has dedicated his professional life “4 decades” in potato crop improvement in India primarily but also contributed key roles in South Asian countries “Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka”, to establish importance and advantage of potato to improve socio-economic conditions of the farming community. His expertise in improved agronomic practices, development, and evaluation of new varieties from CIP and CPRI as well as in seed potato production and evaluating the utility of True Potato seed (TPS) has benefited potato farming community and processing industry people in South Asia.

He started his professional journey by joining International Potato Center (CIP) as Associate Scientist in 1983 and after retirement in 2018, continued his journey and passion to shoulder potato crop for improvement of socio-economic conditions of potato farming community in India, presently he is working as Senior consultant for CIP in multiple projects of ICAR, Karnataka, West Bengal, Haryana, and Odisha Meghalaya.

On the professional front, Dr. Mohinder contributed not only to field research, but he also published over 122 scientific publications on his potato research and received many prestigious awards for his significant contribution in potato research development.

Mitolo Family, Australia
The Mitolo family’s legacy stands as a shining beacon of enduring values—tradition, innovation, determination, and of course, family.  These values have continued to underpin its passion and steadfast dedication to providing premium produce to the tables of Australian households and beyond, for more than half a century. 

Founded on the northern Adelaide Plains in 1972 by Bruno and Angela Mitolo, the leadership has now passed to the next generation of brothers Frank, Darren, and John. This dynamic 21st century team led by Managing Director Frank Mitolo has spearheaded the exploration of new farming methods, introduced innovative varieties (including the world’s first lower GI potato and a low carb potato) and embraced cutting-edge technologies.These pioneering solutions have entrenched their position as industry leaders, setting the gold standard for Australian primary production. 

Over five decades, the Mitolo family has meticulously crafted a reputation for excellence. Its enterprise, Mitolo Family Farms, has become a cornerstone of Australian agriculture, boasting a workforce of over eight hundred individuals and achieving annual sales exceeding AUD$280 million.

Operating as a vertically integrated powerhouse, Mitolo Family Farms oversees every facet of the supply chain—from cultivation to marketing. With a primary focus on potatoes and onions, they have emerged as one of the largest potato production businesses in Australia, with twenty-six farms spanning South Australia and New South Wales, covering an expansive 40,000 hectares of land.  The company also has packaging businesses in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney; capital cities on Australia’s Eastern seaboard and is a supplier to all major retailers.

The Mitolo family’s legacy under Frank’s captaincy is a testament to the transformative power of passion, tradition, and innovation; inspiring change in many for years to come.

Alan Pye, South Australia and New Zealand – awarded posthumously – (1941-2024)
Allan was born in New Zealand in 1941. After leaving school at the age of fourteen he began a farming career that would span nearly 70 years. He started picking potatoes for two local farmers and instead of wages, was offered seed potatoes by one of them and this started a lifelong passion for potatoes. 

Allan was an early adopter of irrigation, after traveling to America to look at farming practices. He started a seed dressing business and was instrumental in the formation of the South Island Export Barley Society, which was set up to drive better returns to farmers for growing barley.

Allan was a supplier of potatoes, carrots and peas to Watties in Timaru and when they decided to amalgamate operations in Christchurch, Allan worked with local farmers and businessmen to establish Alpine Foods, which is now the McCain Factory in Washdyke. The relationship with McCain led Allan to Australia and the formation with his son Mark, of Parilla Premium Potatoes which is now one of Australia’s biggest potato, carrot and onion growing operations.


(Allan Pye’s family receiving the award in his honor)

Perhaps Allan’s biggest business success was the formation of Dairy Holdings. For 14 years Allan was a cornerstone shareholder of what is today the largest milk supplier to Fonterra. One thing that stood out throughout his farming career was his collaboration with others. Whether it be the seed business, the Barley Society, Alpine foods, Rushy Lagoon, Dairy holdings or his current farming partnerships with both his family and other shareholders, Allan was often the visionary who surrounded himself with others that could help make those dreams a reality. The most notable being his former wife, Diana.

Dengshe (Don) Wang, China
Mr. Wang graduated from an agricultural university in the 1980s and worked in a research sector as a potato breeder for about ten years and then shifted his role to the business field. For over 30 years, he always worked very hard, cultivating potatoes on 500,000 acres of barren farmland in poverty-stricken areas of northern Hebei, benefiting more than 500,000 families and over 1 million people.  

Dedicating himself to research, he has developed more than eighty new potato varieties and strains. Due to his unwavering efforts, the Canadian variety “Shepody” has taken root and flourished in China, breaking the previous challenge of being unable to grow “Shepody” potatoes on Chinese soil. With this, the Chinese potato planting industry has reached a new milestone.

Dengshe is the founder of the SnowValley Agriculture Group in 2007. It has developed into a complete potato value chain business including, but not limited to, potato breeding, tissue culture, seed production, large scale potato production operations, excellent storage facilities, processing of frozen fries and marketing of their finished products in China and twenty other countries. The company now has twenty-three subsidiaries and has a staff of 1600.

In 2018 and 2022, the company received the “Enterprise Social Responsibility Award” from People’s Daily. In 2023, the company was honored with the “Green Sustainable Development.

Congratulations to all the recipients of the WPC Global Potato Industry Awards!

Source: World Potato Congress Inc.
Cover image: Award presented to distinguished applied entomologist, Dr. Paul Horne by WPC President, Dr. Peter VanderZaag

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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