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Driven by consumer needs and innovation

23 April 2015

Head of AHDB Potatoes R&D, Dr Mike Storey discusses AHDB Potatoes new Research and Innovation Strategy which is focused on delivering the greatest benefits to levy payers over the next 5 years.

 
“Looking to 2020, GB will continue to need to produce crops efficiently and economically,” says Mike.  “But production must be driven by customer needs and innovation.”
 
The newly launched strategy addresses priorities identified as important by industry and reflects consultation and discussion with levy payers and stakeholders over the last 18 months.
 
Key objectives include building GB’s share of the domestic market in seed, meeting consumer requirements for affordable and convenient fresh and processed potatoes, and exploiting export markets with a range of potato products and technologies.
 
“Research and innovation has moved on and consumers’ needs are front and centre of all new project investments,” says Mike.  “AHDB Potatoes has a commitment to improve the production of potatoes, to assist the industry in promoting potatoes and to protect the reputation of the sector.”
 
AHDB Potatoes spends £1.2m annually on research topics identified by the industry as being important to the sector.  The world class programme levers funding from third parties and partnerships, meaning that we are involved in £15m worth of R&D projects.
 
A number of these are collaborative projects across AHDB.  Examples include work on soils and phosphorus, insecticide resistance and grain aphids, bio-fumigation and the Farm Efficiency Calculator.
 
“Going forward there is recognition of a rapidly developing landscape for R&I funding and this requires flexibility to exploit opportunities,” says Mike.  “Agricultural production and technology now has a far higher visibility around food security and sustainability agendas.”
 
Within the government Agri-Tech Strategy, there are opportunities for the GB potato industry to exploit funding.  Already, several potato industry-led projects have been supported by Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board).
 
Produce, Promote and Protect is at the heart of the strategy which prioritises the following objectives:
  • To build resilience into systems and manage risks better in production by exploiting new knowledge and innovations that can be used on-farm, in-store and along the supply chain.
  • To identify and exploit new business opportunities in the market by a better understanding of crop characteristics and by using information and technology to help develop new products that meet end-user requirements
  • For the industry to be prepared for change, arising from e.g. legislation, climate change, or lack of skills which may have economic, environmental or societal consequences that impact on growers and supply chain profitability
The 2015-2020 R&I Strategy can be viewed here: www.potato.org.uk/research
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