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Strategic Potato (SPot) Farms

8 June 2017

Real value from making change


Inspiring farm excellence through farmer-led discussions

Factual, evidence-based advice, information and activity is core to what we do at AHDB Potatoes. 

The SPot Farm programme up-scales the research and demonstrates the on-farm implementation of the science from our £1.5m annual R&D investment in a commercial, field-scale environment. 

“Inspiration for farmers to adopt new technologies and make beneficial changes on farm must come from voices they are familiar with and trust. This is why AHDB is investing over £1m in our Farm Excellence network every year, to build on and create new groups to allow more farmers to see action on farm and channel innovation at those that can use it the most.” Susannah Bolton, AHDB Director of Knowledge Exchange

Quick links:     ►   SPot Farm locations   ►  Events    ►  Contacts

Aims and objectives

Increasing productivity vs risk of failure

It’s an unfortunate fact that for many potato businesses that the risk of failure is simply too high to risk changing a system that works.

Reduce the water applied to prepack crops and risk common scab rejections – "no way". Alter the fertiliser requirement for processing crops and risk dry matter problems – "no way".

Giving confidence to deliver change

The SPot Farm steps in to offer growers an insight into how new systems and practice can be implemented at their own potato enterprise, ultimately to give levy-payers and their agronomists more confidence to deliver change. And that change may benefit their businesses and the wider supply chain. Fundamentally delivering sustainability for everyone.

Closer to you

The SPot Farm programme will run a series of open days and workshops throughout each season.

In year 1 more than 300 potato supply-chain visitors came far and wide to see, debate and challenge their understanding of the demonstrations at the first SPot Farm site, West, in Staffordshire. Feedback was encouraging with 89% of visitors rating the SPot Farm as relevant to their business. 

Professional development

The open days and farm walks not only allow agronomists to keep up-to-speed with CPD (over 40 BASIS points claim between two meetings last year), innovation and new developments; growers are able to take the latest researched-based thinking to take back to their own potato enterprise. 

The real value: stimulating discussion

The SPot Farm further enables everyone involved in the potato supply chain to interact, highlighting the gaps in communication where information needs to be more available.

2015 - year one success

AHDB Potatoes’ first Strategic Potato Farm was introduced in spring 2015 as a demonstration of the latest, independent best practice in a real, operational commercial setting.

Within the first year, on a 20 hectare site in Rugeley, Staffordshire, hosted by James Daw and family, we examined soil management, precision techniques, greening, crop variability, fertiliser, irrigation scheduling, varieties, yield mapping and water run-off. 

We produced a suite of technical summary videos highlighting some of the key observations from the season. 

2016 - rapid expansion

Building on 2015, in addition to SPot Farm West in Staffordshire, hosted by James Daw and son Sam, 2016 saw two highly innovative businesses joining the programme: Bruce Farms in Perthshire (SPot Farm Scotland) and Elveden Farms in West Suffolk (SPot Farm East).

2017 - Two new locations in the West

In 2017 new locations and fresh research areas came into focus as part of AHDB’s Strategic Potato (SPot) farm programme. Dillington Farms in Somerset and Heal Farms in Shropshire have joined AHDB’s Farm Excellence Platform.

At each site, a steering group involving the grower, local agronomists, AHDB staff, researchers and others, will determine the programme of demonstrations.

Jump to an individual SPot Farm:

  1. East (West Suffolk)
  2. West (Shropshire)
  3. Scotland (Perthshire)
  4. South West (Somerset)
  5. North (North Lincs/East Yorkshire border)

The demonstration programme

Areas of work will continually develop between the sites, for more info on individual sites please use the links above, but you can expect to see: 

  • Developments in the control of PCN including bio fumigation in action.
  • Best practice in soil management and cultivations to increase yield and reduce cost
  • Store assessment and best practice
  • Informing understanding of Free Living nematodes
  • The latest understanding of crop nutrition put into practice
  • Getting the most out of the water you apply and what happens to it in the soil profile.
  • Seed management for improved uniformity
  • Putting precision into practice
  • Improved understanding of soil mechanics
  • Demonstrations of practical measures to protect the environment

Delivery of all elements of the programme are designed to give growers and agronomists the confidence to produce better yields of high quality crops cost effectively.

How to engage


  • We are running a series of open days and workshops throughout each season. All aimed at helping you take the latest thinking and industry developments home to your own enterprise. 
  • View more information about upcoming events, to see when the next SPot Farm open day or farm walk is set. 
  • If you would like, you can also arrange your own bespoke group visit to the sites, simply get in touch to discuss 


  • Opportunities to exhibit at open days are open to all with an interest in potato production and supply chains, contact for more info


  • You can also visit the Strategic Potato Farm blog for regular updates in the form of pictures, videos and commentary on the developments at our best practice demonstration farms. 
  • The core research underpinning the demonstrations is available in more detailed reports in our Research Library.


  • There still opportunities to learn from past demonstrations. Perhaps you visited and want to know more. Or perhaps you weren’t able to visit.
  • Either way, we’ve produced a series of videos which bring summaries of the main areas of work back to your desktop or mobile.
  • An easy-access opportunity to explore, question and discuss the findings from the wide ranging technical demonstrations. 




SPot Farm East

Graham Bannister 

Senior Knowledge Exchange Manager

AHDB Potatoes

07580 704 673

SPot Farm West / South West

Bill Watts

Knowledge Exchange Manager

AHDB Potatoes

07813 527527

SPot Farm North

Amber Cottingham

Knowledge Exchange Manager 

AHDB Potateos

07815 001 462

SPot Farm Scotland

Claire Hodge

Senior Knowledge Exchange Manager (Arable)

AHDB Potatoes

07771 798552


Media and communications

Jimmy Phillips

Senior Marcomms Manager - Potatoes

AHDB Potatoes

02476 47 8933

Stuart Baxter

Marcomms Executive

AHDB Potatoes

02476 478926


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