UK fresh produce innovators have successfully secured major funding for collaborative research to sustainably change the way potatoes are grown, stored and transported.

The Net zero hectare The project is led by the country’s leading potato supplier, Branston, in partnership with B-hive Innovations, Crop Systems Ltd, University of Lincoln, David Armstrong Farms and Arbikie Distillery.

Together the partnership secured £2.06 million in funding acquired from the Agricultural Innovation Programme, run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in cooperation with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Net Zero Carbon Supply Chain

The objective of the project is to investigate new methods to contribute to a net zero carbon supply chain for potato cultivation. The three-year project will work with industry experts in each area, this collaboration will seek to tackle the three main areas of emissions in ware potato cultivation: fertilizers, storage and transport.

Vidyanath (Vee) Gururajan, Managing Director of B-hive Innovations, said, “We are delighted to have received this funding to support our goal of zero emissions. Pulling different technologies to solve real-world problems is at the heart of what we do at B-hive Innovations.

In collaboration with the University of Lincoln, the project is testing innovative new approaches to growing potatoes. The project aims to demonstrate how improved cropping regimes, such as reduced tillage use, affect soil composition and, therefore, crop resilience on a much larger scale than previously tested.

Dr Sandra Varga and Dr Iain Gould, the project’s principal investigators for the University of Lincoln, said: “This is a unique opportunity to try something farmers typically can’t test due to capacity limitations. and cost. The advancements it could bring will dramatically transform the agriculture industry for the future.

Carbon Dioxide Emission

Extensive research will also be undertaken to understand how a more organically-derived, low-carbon fertilizer made from by-products of the potato peeling process can impact crop yield. This aims to release 80% fewer kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per hectare than industry standard synthetic fertilizers.

David Armstrong, a Lincolnshire farmer who will test the research in the field, said: “We are very pleased to be part of such a pioneering project. Reducing our on-farm carbon emissions is essential for the future of our planet, which is why being involved in a project like this from the start gives us the chance to make a real difference.

John Stirling, farmer and owner of Arbikie Distillery in Montrose, said: “We are delighted to be part of such an innovative and potentially significant project. As one of the most sustainable distilleries in the world, it is vitally important for us to look at all aspects of our carbon emissions and see how we can improve things. This project gives us the opportunity to challenge some conventional ideas in all areas and seek to significantly improve our carbon footprint. »

Storage technology

Crop storage technology company Crop Systems Ltd is also part of the consortium to innovate store design to keep stored crops in optimum condition while minimizing energy consumption and environmental impact.

The company is also studying how to improve the transport of crops. Another area advanced by investment is the pre-packaging of retail-ready potatoes during transport, which will reduce the storage time needed in warehouses. Crop Systems seeks to develop a thermal system with low energy consumption in transit to maintain the optimum temperature of potatoes in order to avoid bruising.

Ray Andrews, Managing Director of Crop Systems, said: “We are proud to be involved in this important project and look forward to passing on our knowledge and experience in potato storage, helping to work towards a chain net zero supply.

Mark Willcox, CTO of Branston, said: “This funding marks an important milestone in the collaboration between Branston and B-hive and we are extremely excited to continue sharing our knowledge and innovating in production, storage and potato transport.

“The project is sure to radically change the whole potato industry and paves the way for a step change in the whole supply chain.”

For more information about B-hive Innovations, visit

Source: Hive B Innovations
Photo: LR Mark Wilcox, Technical Director of Branston, and Vidyanath Gururajan, Managing Director of B-Hive
Scott Giles, Cartwright Communications
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