CU LTIVATION AND TECHNOLOGY Ten years of Smart Grader practical experience: ‘grading much more seed’ I t is a fresh morning in January. The outside temperature gauge in the car indicates barely 5 degrees Celcius on arrival at the farm of seed potato grower Kees Gabriëls of Zevenbergen and a strong breeze is blowing. Cap and scarf on and so on to the appointment. The monotonous sound of a grading machine and the diesel engine of a forklift truck-in-action reveal behind which barn door the farmer might be. When entering the space behind it, it’s immediately noticeable that it isn’t much warmer here than outside. High in a corner where the grading machines are placed above a row of storage bunkers, we find Gabriëls. With cap on and in a thick winter coat, he’s using the control monitor to fine-tune the grading machine by a few pluses and minuses a little more precisely towards the potatoes that are currently rolling under the cameras. These are Spuntas from a colleague and they have a high amount of pox on them. In order to ‘save’ as many tubers from this lot as possible and because the demand for good seed is high and grading work pays off - good Spuntas in the 35/45 sizes currently bring in over 70 euros per 100 kilograms – he’s processing as many exportable potatoes as possible. Gentle and cool treatment And yes, indeed, this is what happens at 5 degrees Celsius in a cooled space in which the outside temperature is the same as that in the storage units, Gabriëls explains a little later at the kitchen table. ‘This definitely isn’t a reciprocating grader? We’re getting blue from the cold, but the potatoes don’t, he laughs. ‘NAK inspectors always have this special look: this can’t be good. But after two seasons, each with around height is negligible during the entire grading process. That’s very different from the bashes that long tubers in particular, like the Spunta, receive in the sieves of the reciprocating grader. But you’ll need to grade at a temperature of 12 degrees, otherwise they’ll be black and blue in no time.’ According to Gabriëls, grading in a cool space offers several advantages. There’s hardly any temperature change when you move the seed potatoes from their storage to the grading area and back again. This prevents any potential condensation and any extra stimulus for germination. ‘This isn’t a reciprocating grader, is it? We’re getting blue from the cold, but the potatoes don’t’ 2,000 tons of cooled grading, they are now convinced that it can’t be bad, even when we’re processing the extra-sensitive Spuntas. That’s because the seed potatoes are getting a gentle treatment in the Smart Grader’, the seed potato grower explains. ‘They only roll backwards and forwards a little bit and the drop Especially now that the seed’s germinating so easily this season, the vitality and quality of the planting stock is maintained. Another thing is that, naturally, you save energy costs. Just calculate the cost of warming up to the grading temperature and then perhaps cooling them down again should the seed not be delivered straight after grading. Incidentally, he hasn’t yet calculated the saving himself, just as he hasn’t yet figured out the profitability of the investment. ‘I’ve been growing seed potatoes for many years, Spunta the longest. The area is about 25 hectares and I always grade the harvest myself.’ More exact in size ‘As a seed potato grower, you have about one hundred grading days at your disposal, with which you can grade a total of about 100 hectares on your own with one Smart Grader’, Kees Gabriëls experiences this as a big advantage. Until the arrival of the Smart Grader, Gabriëls also needed additional personnel to inspect the product. This changed in 2013. ‘I met with a representative from Miedema that year. I’m not averse to novelties and I like a challenge. The representative was able to convince me of the advantages of electronic grading and its effectiveness. I thought that was worth the investment of 200,000 euros. I’ve never regretted that decision for a moment. Especially as the grader offered even more advantages than the representative had listed. I’ve already mentioned the advantage of grading in a cool space, 16 Potato World 2019 • number 3 Pagina 15

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