When I first started this job a year ago, I was so excited to go to every potato industry conference and meet all of you. I already had Manitoba Potato Production Days down in my calendar and was trying to see if I could make it to Potato Expo. But then everything changed — five weeks after I started, the global COVID-19 pandemic was declared.
There were many months spent wondering when life would go back to normal and if this conference or that conference would be able to go ahead as previously planned. Last fall it became clear the traditional Canadian potato industry conferences were all being cancelled or scaled down for online versions.
Here at Spud Smart, we started thinking. We knew how important these conferences are to growers and others in the potato industry, and we knew there was still important information to share. And well, we had a solution. Over the course of the pandemic, another division within our parent company was launched — Seed World Group Virtual Events. Since last spring, my colleagues have worked with agriculture associations and companies around the world to move their conferences online using our virtual events platform.
Our solution was simple — we would partner with the provincial and national potato associations to host one national virtual potato industry conference and thus the Canadian Spud Congress was born.
The conference is happening on Feb. 24 and 25 and we’ve packed the winter issue full of information about it. Please check out our show guide which gives you detailed information on the virtual platform, sessions and speakers. I’ve spent the last few months working with the provincial and national potato associations to plan out a diverse and interesting slate of sessions.
I approached session planning similar to how I approach planning out a new issue of Spud Smart. I always try to offer a mix of content because I know growing potatoes is a complex job and there is more to it than just putting the seeds in the ground. With the sessions I feel I was able to accomplish that. We’re offering everything from new agronomic practices to using farm management software.
One session that I am extremely excited about is our conference closer, a precision agriculture presentation from Dutch potato grower Jacob van den Borne. He’s presented at other conferences in Canada and from what I’ve been told the precision agriculture work he has done on his own farm is amazing. I love learning about new technology and trying to understand what is actually practical for growers, so I feel that having a grower present on this will give you all an inside look at what is possible on your own farms.
I’m also looking forward to learning more about the potato seed regulatory changes. I know it is not the most attention-grabbing topic, but seed is something we all need, and its important growers have a say on the regulations around the seed they use. The markets overview session is personally a favourite of mine, although I may be biased as I’m the moderator for it, but still, I swear you won’t want to miss it.
Like in-person conferences, the Canadian Spud Congress isn’t just about the sessions. We’re having a full tradeshow, so you can connect with potato industry companies from across the country to learn about the newest and latest products available for you. And we also have the Spud Shed, which I really would love to meet you in.
So, please grab a beverage (coffee or beer) and come find me, I will try to be in the Spud Shed most of the time, and I want to chat. I want to get to know you, my readers, so I can better know what you want to see on these pages. I really wish I could meet you all in person at coffee breaks, or wandering through tradeshows, or at the lounge following a long day of learning, and hopefully next year I will, but for right now we’ll have to settle for meeting virtually.
P.S. Make sure to check out #SpudCon on social media before and during the conference to connect with other attendees and share that you’re attending.