Agri-tech grant will modernise farm’s potato storage

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A potato storage unit which will help a farm keep its crop in the best market condition for longer has been supported by a grant from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative.

Refrigeration and humidification equipment controlled by atmospheric sensors, as well as new ventilation, a new floor and wall insultation, will allow Poortvliet Farms’ potatoes to be stored in first-class, marketable condition until the end of the marketing season in June/July.

This will enable premium prices to be obtained as there is a critical shortage of UK potatoes available to buyers at this time of year.

The project has received a grant of £65,903 from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative. The initiative is run by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority with support from New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Norfolk County Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, and the local authorities covering this area.

The store will hold approximately 1,300 tonnes of potatoes. The store’s equipment is totally automated via electronic sensors which report on air quality, temperature, CO2 levels and humidity. It then controls the fans and humidification equipment to control the atmosphere inside.

Bruce van Poortvliet said: “The new potato store will enable us to sell all or part of the crop later in the season when it can attract a higher price. Only modern stores allow this to be done consistently and reliably.

“The banning of CIPC sprout suppressant means there are challenges for the potato market, so we are pleased to be investing in a new, modern store.”

A new grader and small-scale bagging line will also be introduced.  The grader will be used to ensure the crop is fully fit for both storage and eventual sale to packers.  It will also be used prior to bagging potatoes into retail and commercial packs for sale direct to local pubs, restaurants and shops as high quality, local produce.

Poortvliet Farms is a 552ha farm near Aylsham in Norfolk, cropping winter wheat, winter and spring barley, sugar beet, rape and potatoes, both for processing and for the fresh pre-pack market.

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