Responsible potato growing and chain approach

As a breeding company, we are positioned at the start of the most amazing food chain ever; the potato chain. We aim to maintain a leading role within the seed potato sector and further improve potato growing processes. By this, we mean achieving the maximum positive impact for the minimum negative impact.
 

1 – Developing sustainable potato varieties

The potato varieties we have developed and are developing are helping to make potato growing more responsible. We focus on new varieties whereby yield is maximised/assured with reduced input.

Read more about developing sustainable varieties

 

2 – Growers with a sustainability plan

We want to work with growers to reduce the footprint for potato growing. Some of our growers have been actively improving sustainability in relation to business operations for many years. Around 50 growers were affiliated to the Stichting Veldleeuwerik platform, which helps growers make the change to sustainable production. Our aim was for all our Dutch HZPC growers to be affiliated with this association. The number of participants, however, did not increase and the Stichting Veldleeuwerik was wound up at the end of 2019. We have therefore reformulated the targets and KPIs.
 

‘Improving sustainability among growers’ working group

We want the number of growers working with a sustainability plan to expand to 100% by 2030. In order to realise this, we will look at how we can stimulate growers with respect to sustainability. That is why, in 2018, we set up the ‘Improving sustainability among growers’ working group. This working group primarily focuses on two activities:

A.    developing a measurement method in consultation with growers to assess how each grower is doing in terms of environmental issues

B.    Energy-neutral storage among growers

 

A.    Development of measurement method

➔   Harmonising targets
Together with a focus group of six growers, we considered targets and methods for measuring results.

Subjects that connect into our HZPC strategy and input from stakeholders and for which we wish to define ambitions:

  • Higher yield for less input (fresh water, pesticides, etc.);
  • CO2 reduction/generating sustainable energy;
  • sustainable soil management;
  • and improved biodiversity.
     

➔   Digital Platform pilot
The working group would like to use the relevant, available agronomic data (e.g. from registration, satellite images, etc.) to improve understanding of how harvests can be optimised. We would also like to use this data for calculations by the Cool Farm Tool.  The CFT measures the following three main issues: greenhouse gas, water usage, and biodiversity. From April 2020 to June 2020, we will complete the first pilot with three growers. The tool's success will be determined by the reliability of crop registration and the option to enrich data using other data sources.


In 2021, the pilot's second phase will commence; in 2022, HZPC will implement the Cool Farm Tool and report on greenhouse gas and biodiversity. 

 

B.    Energy-neutral storage among growers

In 2030, we would like seed potatoes to be stored by growers in an energy-neutral manner. This not only reduces CO2 emissions, it also provides an income to growers after a repayment period. The aim is to generate solar or wind energy to power climate control for the seed potatoes. Because storage tends to take place over the winter months, wind energy is usually more suitable. 38% of 489 growers in the Netherlands have solar panels and 14% have a wind turbine(s).

 

More initiatives for sustainable growing


Fulfilling GlobalG.A.P.  standard
GlobalG.A.P. is the worldwide standard for safe food production in the chain. As of 2012, an increased responsibility for food safety has been borne by the grower. Growers affiliated with HZPC must comply with the GlobalG.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 respect to crop protection for example.
 

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 Polish partners within the food chain on the initiative of Farm Frites. It is known as the Polish Sustainable Farming Association. Aim: the promotion of sustainable agriculture. HZPC Poland has been a partner for several years. The programme 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.

 

3 – Socially responsible purchasing

Purchasing within HZPC is not centralised within a purchasing department. At the moment, we are gradually developing a policy for various purchasing activities. Activities we are currently working on include sustainable purchasing of packaging and logistics services.
 

Sustainable packaging for seed potatoes

Our Packaging working group has focussed on improving the sustainability of seed potato packaging and reducing usage since 2018. Seed potatoes are distributed unpacked (in bulk) and also packed in jute, plastic or Big Bags.
 

Material usage* KG (packaging) Tons of seed potatoes
     
Jute 50 kg 485,000 71,350
     
Jute 25 kg 675,000 84,375
     
Jute 10 kg 37,500 3,000
     
Plastic packaging – 30 kg crates 3,150 52,500
     
Plastic packaging – 2,5 kg 330 141
     
Plastic packaging – 5 kg 761 498
     

Plastic Big Bags – can be reused

148,000 77,125
     
Wood (sustainable sources) 154,400 12,950
     
Total packaging in kg 1,505,141 323,939
     
* Activities and figures relate to HZPC Holland and not to STET and the foreign branches
   

 

Minimise use of packaging

We want to reduce the use of packaging by 1% per year. As a result of Brexit, deliveries to the UK are uncertain and when using bulk transport, we have difficulties processing returns.
 

No single-use plastics

Our aim to completely replace plastic packaging with other materials by 2023. In the short term (2021) this means that single-use plastic is replaced by biodegradable alternatives (such as jute) or materials that can be reused.

In Germany, we began a trial with a partner in 2019. All of our 25kg jute packs and plastic materials were collected and recycled.
 

Reusing unprinted Big Bags

Every year, we use around 70,000 plastic Big Bags. These transport 1,250 kg of seed potatoes. These Big Bags can be reused for various purposes. At the moment, we are testing unprinted, smart Big Bags in Spain. Information for growers about the seed potatoes and how to store them is provided in a chip that can be read using a smartphone. The unprinted Big Bags can then be easily reused by the customer after delivery.

In France, we have started collecting and recycling around 50,000 Big Bags annually. We are currently looking at whether we could expand this to other locations.
 

Jute

Jute bags are made from plant-based materials and are biodegradable.
Every year we use:

     
50 kg packaging   1,6 million items
     
25 kg packaging   4-5 million items
     
10 kg packaging   300,000 items
     

We aim to reduce usage per ton of sold seed potatoes. That is why we are focussing on more loose deliveries.
 

Prevention of child labour

The fact that the plant-based jute bags come from Asia means there is a risk of them being produced using child labour. We do not accept child labour and have made contractual agreements with our suppliers. The working group which focuses on preventing child labour in the chain recently drafted a new clause that must be fulfilled by suppliers.

Read more about how we aim to prevent child labour
 

4 – Technical innovations for the chain


HZPC has developed innovative tools that are useful in the chain (harvesting, storage and processing). These fall under Solentum – Agro Insights, a separate company within HZPC Holding. The business concentrates on developing measurement methods and services for partners in the potato chain. The corresponding SolDataPlatform has also been launched. Solentum offers the following products:

 

This is an electronic potato that measures five crucial parameters in the growing and storage seasons: temperature, relative humidity, CO2, soil moisture and mechanical shocks. The SolAntennae can be placed at any location in a storage setting and measure the same parameters and make adjustments where necessary.

 

This is the first app with real-time information for potato growers. The app indicates the expected yield per hectare, the percentages of size categories, and the numbers of potato tubers in these categories. Businesses that buy potatoes can use the app to make earlier and quicker decisions about whether the yield is suitable for them.

 

Solentum SolEye has been developed for the processing industry; it’s a machine that accurately and consistently assesses the colour of fries. This independent, objective and cost-effective assessment method is hugely important for determining where the potato will be used. The technique is also used by packers to determine the homogeneity of cooking types.

 

Solentum selected for ‘Food Loss Challenge Asia’
At the end of 2018, Solentum was selected from a large group of candidates as one of the 20 start-up companies to provide a presentation to ‘Food Loss Challenge Asia’, sponsored by the Rabobank  (www.foodlosschallenge.asia)

 

Hyper Spectral Camera

We offer Challenger growers the opportunity to monitor their plots with a Hyper Spectral Camera. This measures the dry matter content distribution in the potatoes.

Growers can then estimate how much they can store and for how long. It is a service that allows growers to get the very best out of our varieties and, in turn, minimise losses.
 

App for growers in developing countries

We support our growers across the globe. Even smaller growers in countries such as Africa and Asia benefit from partnerships. Over the past year, we have developed an app that they can consult. This allows us to share expertise which can also help smaller growers to increase their yields. The app offers practical information and advice, such as explaining the best times for planting, and noting which varieties are suitable for particular soils. Advice is also provided about fertilisation, crop protection agents and irrigation.
 

Grower decision support model

This smartphone app is a real-time tool which supports growers with decision-making throughout the process of planning the harvest, to supplying the potatoes. In 2020, the app was tested in Finland (15 growers) and the Netherlands (3-5 growers).