Selecting growers with a sustainability program
It is important to our stakeholders that the activities of our HZPC growers are sustainable and transparent. Together with HZPC they are at the forefront of the potato chain. Sustainability of that part of the chain therefore requires commitment and cooperation.
HZPC is a member of ‘Stichting Veldleeuwerik’. For some years now we have been promoting the sustainability method of ‘Stichting Veldleeuwerik’ to our growers. The experiences of participating farmers have been very positive. They recognise the value of the program and they have indicated that they learn a great deal from one another. Nevertheless, the number of HZPC growers (30) who want to work via this certified method did not increase further. We are therefore not going to achieve our aim of an annual increase of 25 certified growers nor our target of 25% of our growers having a concrete sustainability program by 2020.
We nevertheless know that many growers are taking initiatives to make their operations more sustainable. It is our goal to make the sustainability performance of our growers measurable so as to make performance comparable. We participated in a pilot method of the WUR/LEI. This did not yet sufficiently address the areas that we want to make transparent and workable. We are currently working on the development of a new baseline measurement for growers.
‘Well on the way to climate-neutral field crops’
Partnership with Polish Sustainable Farming Association
Natural resources such as water, fertile land and fossil fuels are under pressure in Poland. A non-commercial partnership was set up with partners within the food chain in Poland on the initiative of Farm Frites in 2014. It is known as the Polish Sustainable Farming Association. Aim: the promotion of sustainable agriculture. HZPC Poland has been a partner since mid-2015. The program is focused on the first link in the food chain: the farmer. They share their knowledge and learn how to cooperate with other committed companies. This allows them to gain in strength.
Establishment of the 'Sustainability plan for growers' working group
In 2018, a working group will be set up that will focus on making sustainability more transparent to growers and ensuring that growers develop a plan for sustainability. The working group will also formulate a position on the sustainable demands we place on growers. Topics discussed are in line with our HZPC strategy and input from stakeholders:
- Higher yield with a lower environmental impact;
- Ensuring future production by maintaining soil health and avoiding agricultural restriction;
- Promoting crop rotation in favour of soil fertility, biodiversity and the prevention of soil diseases.
Global G.A.P. is the global standard for safe food production in the chain. As of 2012, more responsibility for food safety has been placed with the grower. Growers affiliated with HZPC must comply with the Global G.A.P standard. The certificate is based on food safety but various CSR criteria have also been included. The grower must comply with statutory rules with regard to crop protection, for example.
Global G.A.P. offers the option to have the audits conducted by the marketing organisation, in this case HZPC. ECAS ensures that HZPC conducts these audits correctly. This certification method is used frequently outside of the Netherlands. The consequence of this working method is that all growers must comply with the standard before they can be certified together as a group.
Increasing yield and reducing wastage
HZPC helps growers to optimise production and to reduce negative impact and wastage. Education is an important part of this. This is why we organise regular grower meetings about different topics, such as ‘soil and fertilisation’.
For 2015-2017 the theme of 'storage' was the focus. A great deal of loss (due to damp or diseases) can be prevented if growers bring drying and storage up to a higher and more sustainable level (less use of resources). Over 200 of the 500 Dutch growers attended the various meetings. Following the meetings small scale follow-up meetings were organised for the farmers' own premises with an expert in attendance.
Meetings for growers from both France and the UK were also organised so that they could share their knowledge with Dutch growers. Key topics for these meetings included the optimisation of yield and reduction of disease in the seed potato crop.
Technical innovations for the chain
In addition to new breeding techniques, Research & Development is also developing other innovations. In this way, we develop tools that come in handy for processes in the chain (cultivation, storage and processing).
Prevention of storage diseases through ionisation
The pressure to better manage storage diseases, such as silver scurf on potatoes, is enormous. For example, the quality requirements with respect to seed potatoes have been tightened up in recent years and the use of chemical agents is increasingly limited. To this end, research has been carried out into the possibility of suppressing the infection pressure of storage diseases by ionizing air in the seed storage facility. Unfortunately, in the first phase of the study it was found that it was impossible to ionize the air without the release of harmful amounts of ozone. For that reason, the study was not continued.