TRADE AND MARKET I NG ‘To deliver the right lot of seed potatoes to the right customer.’ That, according to Agrico’s managing director Jan van Hoogen, was one of the main objectives for investing 2.3 million euros in a brand new quality centre. ‘Every year, we incur costs of, on average, between 1 and 2 million euros for resolving complaints at home and abroad. By investing in a quality centre, we want to halve these costs’, the managing director explains the objective of the cooperative in Emmeloord. J ust before the start of the spring deliveries of seed potatoes, Agrico opened the new quality centre, which is at walking distance from its head office in Emmeloord. ‘In this quality centre, we’ve been monitoring all our lots of potatoes since 15 August 2018 in order to gain better insight into their internal and external quality and vitality. This enables us to determine the right destination for our potatoes. For our customers it means that they can be more certain of the right quality. In addition, based on all the research data we collect here, we can improve the cultivation and storage of our potatoes. This will lead to seed potatoes with a higher quality’, explains Van Hoogen to those present at the official opening of the centre. After the official opening with Harald Bouman, the new Mayor of the municipality of Noordoostpolder, those present were able to view the modern line. Predicting vitality in the future Van Hoogen expects that extra insight into the quality of seed potatoes by collecting big data also means a major step forward in the Netherlands. ‘In our quality centre we now have a complete picture of all our seed potato lots. In addition to grading, underwater weight, and internal and external tuber quality, we collect data on the vitality of seed from our member growers. We link this data in our information and management system to the plots of the grower. In the future, we’ll be able to extend it even further to fertilisation and planting time, for example, so we’ll be able to make a reliable prediction about the vitality of the lots. This effect is enhanced because sensors are becoming better and more sophisticated and collect a great deal of information during cultivation and storage. In the future, this could lead to an adjustment of our delivery conditions’, Van Hoogen expects. Van Hoogen explains, with an example that testing the vitality of lots in advance works. ‘From one of our growers we received a nice looking lot of seed potatoes to appraise. After a stay in the climate room, we saw a few rotten ones in the sample of a hundred tubers. The grower’s reaction was that this wasn’t possible, because he’d not seen anything in the inspection room. A control sample of five hundred tubers gave the same outcome for the lot. We then know for sure that this type of lot isn’t suitable for long-distance export purposes. In this way, we can anticipate complaints and subsequently halve the annual costs of resolving them, which are, on average, between 1 and 2 million euros’, Van Hoogen explains. This means that the investment will be recouped in a few years. All potatoes Besides seed potatoes, Agrico can now also automatically evaluate the quality of table potatoes. According to RMA director Michel Remijn, the supplier of the quality evaluation line, the line is set up in such a way that when the lot is registered, it’s immediately known what a sample should be inspected for. ‘A total of up to ten samples can be routed at the same time. Since the first day that the line’s been running, 12,000 samples have already been inspected’, Remijn explains. ● Jaap Delleman Noordoostpolder Mayor Harald Bouman (l) and Agrico managing director Jan van Hoogen open the new quality centre of the cooperative in Emmeloord. Potato World 2019 • number 2 45 Pagina 44

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