CU LTIVATION AND TECHNOLOGY Washed table potatoes share in Spanish supermarkets is growing introduced. Another important trend that Aquilar already responded to ten years ago is the organic market. ‘We were one of the first in Spain to offer organic table potatoes in small packages’, Gascó proudly announces. ‘Today, the Spanish organic market is growing fast. On average, Europe has a market share of 8% of organic potatoes on the shelves, where Spain only has 2%, so there’s still potential for growth’, he outlines the opportunities in the market. A lot of import from France In the beautiful Aquilar building, a quality laboratory has been set up where the company determines the quality and range of the supplied potatoes. In this space, the Schouten RT60 grading machine is immediately noticeable, which the quality manager uses to quickly sample the sizes of the potato lots. ‘We received this machine from Van Rijn potato merchants in ‘s Gravenzande 20 years ago, at the opening of this branch. The machine is still working, while the company has long since disappeared from the market’, Gascó says. There is a range of varieties in the laboratory. In this period, the potatoes almost all come from Spain. ‘Roughly speaking, we receive Spanish potatoes from May to November. These The Spanish table potato market demands quick-to-prepare products such as microwave potatoes. come from all the major growing areas such as Cartagena, Andalusia, Valencia and Valladolid. From November to May, the French potato sector is the main supplier. From the Netherlands we buy Agria from companies such as Nedato and Agrico. Looking at the range of varieties, Aquilar wants to distinguish itself with new varieties, with the Lucinda, Vivaldi and Sifra varieties, all from HZPC in Joure, as important trump cards. From these varieties, Aquilar also grows local seed potatoes to supply the growers in the region. Automation necessary The potatoes arrive in the spacious packaging hall via an electronic grading machine that sorts them by quality. Here a dozen weighing and packing machines are running. What is notable here is that the company makes extensive use of robots for filling the plastic boxes with which Spanish small packagers supply the supermarkets. Doria tells us that the first robot is already 18 years old. ‘We’ve ordered a new robot to meet the growing demand for table potatoes. In addition, it’s increasingly difficult to find good staff on the work floor, which is why automation of the business processes is becoming increasingly important’, Gascó explains. With this investment, the Spanish company seems ready to continue to grow in the highly-dynamic Spanish table potato market in the coming years. ● Jaap Delleman ‘At the time, we were one of the first companies in Spain to offer organic table potatoes in small packages’, Francisco Gascó proudly announces. Potato World 2019 • number 2 43 Pagina 42

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