“It all begins on the farm. That plate of french fries you are about to enjoy began as a potato, grown and harvested from a family farm. Farms have always been at the heart of McCain Foods’ business. The success we have had is only possible because of what happens on the family farms with which we are fortunate to partner. But we need to have a frank discussion about the future of farming.” So says Max Koeune, President and CEO of McCain Foods in this article published by the Toronto Star.
In the same way virtual assistants help us discover our next favorite song, a new software package has used advanced machine learning to help farmers and agronomists pinpoint what their crops and soils need to boost yield in a sustainable way. The scientific teams of Bayer Crop Science and Biome Makers tested and disclosed the first application of this groundbreaking technology on bioRxiv. The study and resulting scientific paper details the analysis of the soil microbiome to assess effectiveness of Bayer’s biological fungicide Minuet.
If you’ve been on the land for four generations already, you want to make sure you keep it going for the next one. In southern Victoria, Blowhard potato farmer Gary Crick is making sure he’s using the most sustainable practices so his farm can stay competitive, and to leave a strong legacy for his son, writes Alex Ford in this article published in The Transcontinental.
McCain Foods has installed its proprietary world-leading, technology in the form of a Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) generator, as part of the company’s latest upgrade to its Smithton plant in Tasmania, Australia. The PEF generator is another example of McCain’s commitment to producing more with less, as the $1.8 million project, which incorporates McCain’s proprietary technology, results in potatoes being pulsed with an electric field rather than steamed, slashing the plant’s energy and water usage.
Following the first anniversary of the publication of the Farm to Fork Strategy by the European Commission, Europatat and twelve other association members of the Agri-Food Chain Roundtable on Plant Protection have co-signed an open letter on the importance of carrying out a comprehensive assessment before making any decisions about the reduction of pesticide use, including the target for 50% reduction of the use of chemicals.
As part of today’s release of McCain’s 2020 Global Sustainability report the company is pledging that it will be implementing regenerative agricultural practices across 100 per cent of its global potato acreage by 2030. This transition will restore and protect soil health and quality and look to natural processes to control pests, prevent plant disease and strengthen crops against severe weather events.
Good soil is fundamental to growing healthy, productive, and profitable crops. Jay Hao, Professor of Plant Pathology for the University of Maine, is working to reduce pathogens and improve soil health, by planting rotational crops after potatoes. “Because the tubers stay in the soil, you face a lot of soil borne pathogens. That can cause a lot of diseases. So instead of controlling one disease versus multiple, we do the integrated way by using different crops as a nutrient input and also as a disease suppression strategy.”
Tesco has become the first retailer in Ireland to make its packaging for 1kg new season potatoes fully recyclable while also reducing the amount of paper used in its 2.5kg potato packaging. This step change on packaging will commence on a 12-week trial basis in 100 stores, with plans to roll out the changes to more products if successful. As one of Ireland’s favourite grocery items, this change will have a significant impact on reducing plastic waste.
In a blog post on Global Food for Thought, guest authors Chris Kennedy and Bob Easter examine how a collaborative effort to bring a disease-resistant potato variety to market in Africa can promote global food security. It has to start with good seed, they write. Their seed has to have the genetic traits to not only produce more grain or fruit or tubers, but it also has to have the traits that make the plant resistant to the crops’ natural enemies and climate threats.
Potato Virus Y is dealt with by a zero-tolerance policy at Albanwise Farming in North Yorkshire in the UK, where the specialist operation has 40ha of processing ware and 360ha of seed potatoes in the ground for 2021, consisting of 31 different varieties. “It has to be a belt and braces approach, but it doesn’t have to be all about insecticides. There are other ways to keep the guard up and we are making use of a whole range of techniques,” says Tom England, the company’s seed potato production manager.
One of the UK’s largest potato crisp manufacturers, Tyrrells, has taken its latest step in a continued sustainability drive by converting its energy supply to liquefied natural gas (LNG) which will reduce its carbon emissions by over 14% per year. Tyrrells produces over 86 million bags of crisps every year. With high energy demands to consider, the company wanted to find a way of increasing efficiencies in order to lower its carbon footprint.
Potato cultivation has become a notable driver of regional and local economy in the potato producing areas in Peru. It generates intensive labor in Peru, which means around 34 million daily wages per season for small family farming producers, the Ministry of Agrarian Development and Irrigation (Midagri) reported. “Although potato cultivation generates more than 110,000 fixed or permanent jobs, the most remarkable aspect is the creation of the intensive temporary jobs nationwide,” Midagri’s potato chain specialist Juan Miguel Quevedo says.
A row over a huge potato processing plant has exposed flaws in the country’s reliance on a single crop. In Frameries, campaigners call for farmers to diversify. For three years, residents in Frameries, a town in French-speaking Hainaut in the south-west of Belgium, have battled against the proposed construction of a €300m (£258m) factory, which it is said would increase Belgian production of processed potato products by a third. Belgium is already the world’s largest exporter of pre-fried potato products.
The quest for shelf-stable french fries with no refrigeration: Startup’s sustainable tech takes food farther
Farther Farms is a food tech startup with Cornell roots. Its innovative sterilization technology produces shelf-stable foods that don’t need freezing or refrigeration. Their first product is the world’s first commercially available shelf-stable french fry – a major addition to an industry dominated by frozen fries first invented in the 1940s. By sidestepping cold storage, the company aims to open new markets in regions that lack refrigeration while reducing supply chain costs and carbon emissions.
A two-year project funded through the University of Wisconsin-Water Resources Institute is investigating an interseeding cultivation method for potato cropping that shows early promise to reduce nitrate leaching. Researcher Kevin Masarik from UW-Stevens Point is pursuing what he termed an outside-the-box idea – interseeding rye, oat and millet between the rows of potatoes to create biomass to take up excess nitrates.
Global packaging and paper manufacturer Mondi has partnered with Polish compostable packaging producer SILBO to develop paper-based, eco-friendly packaging for potatoes. Created for Irish farm potato business Meade Farm Group, the packaging has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The solution will enable Meade to replace hard-to-recycle plastic with paper in line with its sustainability targets.
‘Foods that go farther’: Farther Farms closing the French fry gap, revolutionizing food processing, transportation, storage
Today, the French fry. Tomorrow, the global food supply chain. Farther Farms is a high-growth food technology start-up, based in Rochester, NY, working to solve one of society’s greatest challenges: how to make food go farther. The company began by creating the world’s first commercially-available shelf-stable, fresh-cut style French fry that’s never-frozen and ready-to-cook. The French fries have a 90-day shelf life at room temperature – no artificial preservatives added, and no freezing or refrigeration required.
Agri-chemical company BASF has launched a new initiative to help UK growers unlock the potential – and the profits – of their potato crop. Titled, ‘Perfecting Potatoes Together’, the initiative provides a platform on which the potato industry can come together to share experience, know-how and passion for developing and perfecting healthy potato crops.
The ‘Great Wrap’: Aussie couple goes to market with world first compostable potato-based cling wrap, pallet wrap
A young Australian couple have thrown in their day jobs as an architect and wine maker to tackle ‘the plastic problem’ after being disheartened by the sheer amount of waste in their industries. Julia and Jordy Kay are producing the world’s first compostable cling wrap and pallet wrap which is made out of potato waste. The Melbourne couple sold more than $30,000 of ‘Great Wrap’ in their first week. The next product will be the pallet wrap which will be made from the potato waste as well.
‘Greening the Green’: PepsiCo to make snack packaging 100 percent recyclable, teams up with Clean Up Australia
PepsiCo has strengthened its commitment to tackling plastic waste by becoming the first large food FMCG business in Australia to move to 100 percent recyclable packaging across its entire snacks range. PepsiCo’s portfolio includes some of the most recognisable snack brands in Australia including Smith’s, Red Rock Deli, Sakata, and Doritos. By the end of the year consumers will be able to recycle all of their PepsiCo snack packaging via their home curb side recycling.
“Biologicals are tools for the sustainable agriculture of the future… Biologicals are a class of agricultural products that include biopesticides, biofertilizers, and biostimulants that are derived from natural materials, such as animals, plants, bacteria, or minerals,” writes Claude Flueckiger in this article published by AgoPages.
Lambweston / Meijer Sustainability Report: ‘Eat balanced, don’t waste food and care about the climate’
Lamb Weston / Meijer defines 3 key sustainability challenges for 2030: ‘Balanced Diet, Zero Waste and Climate Action’. These are disclosed in its sustainability report 2019-2020, which was published last week. The report shows that most of the 2020 goals are reached. Compared to the reference year 2008, 90% of its frozen products are pre-fried in healthier vegetable oil, low in saturated fat.
Agronomy expert: ‘Doing nothing is not an option – whole systems approach needed to reduce potato virus’
Writes Eric Anderson, Senior Agronomist at Scottish Agronomy: “We have sprayed ourselves into resistance, and we need to be bolder in adopting natural measures into pest management if we’re to secure the health and quality of seed potatoes in Great Britain. The prevalence of virus in seed stocks is challenging the industry and we are at a tipping point. It’s clear that insecticides are not doing the job on their own anymore and that we need to do something differently.”