SwarmFarm Robotics, an Australian based pioneer in Integrated Autonomy, has introduced its innovative “dock and refill” feature, allowing robots to autonomously refuel and restock. This development decouples equipment size from efficiency. Historically, larger farm tools have overshadowed smaller ones in productivity. However, larger equipment has caused soil compaction, reducing yields. SwarmFarm’s new capability ensures continuous operation without manual intervention, promoting sustainable farming and tailored solutions.
New Zealand, Australia
Lamb Weston, a global supplier of frozen potato products, has acquired Victorian-based Crackerjack Foods, known for its frozen potato-based items in the Australian food services sector. The acquisition includes two Crackerjack processing facilities and will see Crackerjack’s employees join Lamb Weston. The move aims to expand Lamb Weston’s product range, enhance processing capabilities, and strengthen its presence in Australia.
Potatoes New Zealand has appointed Kate Trufitt as its new chief executive. A director of Horticulture NZ, she has held many roles in the horticulture sector. According to the Potatoes NZ website, Trufitt has a great breadth of experience from plant nursery, growing, postharvest and processing through to the market – both domestic and export.
In a landmark deal, Simplot is set to acquire Agronico, Tasmania’s leading seed potato producer. The acquisition, pending regulatory approvals, promises to reshape Tasmania’s agricultural sector. Judith Shaw, Agronico’s owner, expressed confidence in Simplot’s ability to continue the company’s 35-year legacy. Agronico, known for its innovative use of hydroponics, produces 8,000 tonnes of seed potatoes and 25,000 tons of minitubers annually.
Wyma Solutions takes viewers behind the scenes with new video series, revealing the journey to cutting-edge production facilities
Wyma, a leading provider of post-harvest solutions, is thrilled to announce the launch of their new monthly video series that offers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into the manufacturing journey of their exceptional products. This captivating series aims to give viewers an unprecedented glimpse into the heart of Wyma’s operations.
MHM Automation Limited, a global Agritech organization headquartered in New Zealand, has joined forces with Wyma, a similar-sized company. MHM specializes in supplying products and services to agricultural customers in the meat, dairy, grain, and horticulture sectors, particularly excelling in automated reverse packaging for dairy and plate freezer technology for meat. Additionally, MHM offers automation and robotics solutions, from palletizing to AGVs and automated warehousing.
TNA Solutions partnered with Mister Bee Potato Chips to revolutionize snack production, achieving a 400% capacity increase. The partnership involved a comprehensive upgrade of the manufacturing site, leveraging cutting-edge technologies and installing TNA’s state-of-the-art packaging system. The result was a significant boost in output, meeting increasing demand without compromising quality.
In a massive warehouse in Melbourne’s west, a gleaming new machine hums and purrs around the clock, extruding large rolls of clear plastic wrap. It is not the petroleum-based product so ubiquitous in everyday life — from wrapping factory goods on pallets to keeping food fresh in the fridge. This wrap is made from potato starch and polymers, a high-tech process that utilises potato waste from food products such as french fries and potato chips.
Tasmanian supermarkets are once again fully stocked with frozen chips [fries], bringing an end to a potato shortage that left chip bowls empty across the country between Christmas last year and just a few weeks ago, as Pulse Hobart reports. The local spud harvest is being fed through production plants owned by Simplot and McCain, refilling the freezers at supermarkets and takeaway shops.
A new generation of agtech has landed for potato growers in Australia thanks to Elders and UK-based harvest insights system HarvestEye. Growers can now glean precise and detailed information about their produce in real time. Using a camera and machine learning algorithms, the system measures and counts a crop as it is being harvested. This produces a breakdown of size, count and relative yield through a field.
Mitolo Family Farms, Australia’s potato and onion category leader, has partnered with Australian supermarket chain Coles, as well as global innovators in sustainable packaging solutions Detpak, to create what is believed to be Australia’s first curbside recyclable paper bag for fresh potatoes. The new Gourmandine paper packaging extends on previous sustainability steps taken by Mitolo Family Farms, as the company previously cut its use of plastic packaging in 2022.
Australia faced a severe potato shortage due to wet weather, flooding, and persistent fungal diseases that destroyed crops in Tasmania, Victoria, and South Australia. The weather conditions, coupled with high fuel and fertiliser costs, led to delayed planting and harvesting, creating a ripple effect in the supply chain. Despite being efficient and profitable crops, growers face constant threats from soil-borne diseases. Scientists are working on predicting disease outbreaks through soil moisture and temperature monitoring.
Australian entomologist Dr. Paul Horne discussed the benefits of adopting integrated pest management (IPM) practices at a Potatoes New Zealand research update meeting. He shared examples of growers who have successfully implemented IPM, reducing their reliance on chemical sprays and benefiting from biological control methods. Dr. Horne emphasized the importance of considering the impact of spraying on beneficial insects and utilizing cultural controls.
Potato chips manufacturer Bluebird, based in New Zealand, says its parent company PepsiCo has invested over $66 million into the development of its Auckland factory, with a $26m-plus packing machine under construction. The facility that can hold up to 13,500 pallets of chips. That is Bluebird’s biggest project, and expected to be completed later this year.
Australia’s largest potato producer, Mitolo Family Farms, has sold a majority stake in the business to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, as Kim Berry reports for Food & Drink Business. MD Frank Mitolo says the company’s growth plans require extra capital, but the family will retain a “significant ownership stake”.
The Rockliff Liberal Government in Tasmania is taking proactive steps to support potato producers after the detection of Potato Virus Y (PVY) tuber necrosis strain. The virus causes a disease of potatoes called potato tuber necrotic ringspot disease which results in dark unsightly rings on tubers. The virus is spread by aphids.
Consumers in Australia should see more potato products in supermarket freezers in the coming weeks as chip factories operate at capacity to meet demand, but the industry warns another shortage could be on the horizon. Potato harvests are underway in Tasmania and Victoria, Australia’s largest production areas for french fries.
Simplot sought a complete turnkey solution for their french fries production line in Tasmania. Fortunately, TOMRA Food offered sorting solutions that could be integrated with some of Simplot’s existing equipment. The sorting solutions offered by TOMRA Food enable Simplot to adjust their sorting procedures according to specific standards, ensuring they meet their customers’ targets while maintaining flexibility.
Queenslanders are being burnt by hot chip [fries] prices. They’re soaring to as much as $12 for a small serve in the wake of a sorry spud supply. As 7News Australia reports, some stores have had to go to drastic measures to keep their fryer full. Chip shops such as Good Lookin Rooster are now importing chips from countries such as the U.S. for twice the local price.
Stuart Wright, the board chair of Potatoes New Zealand Incorporated, has announced the resignation of the organisation’s Chief Executive, Chris Claridge. Claridge has been in the role for seven years and has significantly changed the way the organisation operates. Claridge has not announced his future plans, but indicates he is excited at the opportunities in front of him.
Ah, the humble spud. Whether it’s turned into a crispy and delicious chip smothered in sauce or is mashed, fried, roasted or crisped up into a potato cake, the starchy vegetable is one of those things that makes life bearable, write Maya Skidmore and contributor Adena Maier. That’s why we hate to be the bearers of bad news: Australia is currently in the midst of a potato shortage, and its end remains unclear, they write.
Data from 2021 presented in the Potatoes New Zealand (PNZ) annual report shows minimal impact on production despite a rough couple of years. However, potato growers across the country say they have continued to navigate regional plan changes, restrictive government policies, ongoing pest challenges, weather events and rising costs of production.
An Australia-wide shortage has led some cafés and restaurants to temporarily substitute frozen potato chips [fries] with sweet potato, or take it off the menu altogether, while one major supermarket has introduced limits on the number of bags customers can buy, as Amy Hall reports for SBS News.
The hot chip shortage has now hit close to home [in Australia], with the internet divided over a recent photo of an empty Coles fridge, writes Joanne Tran in a news story published by The Daily Telegraph. In a now-viral Reddit post, a user shared a snap of the frozen chips section at their local Coles, and shockingly, it was completely empty.