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Bill Menkveld, Greentronics

From Field-to-Storage-to-Field

Tracking seed potatoes is the way of the future.

Advanced harvest and storage mapping technology now allows accurate-to-the-truckload tracking of potatoes from where they were grown in a field to exactly where they are stored in a bin. The technology’s on-farm potential is huge: detailed, automated information capture supports more informed agronomic decision making, better storage management, enhanced bio-security, and more. But, tracking field-to-storage is just the beginning. Tracking product from seed growers’ storage bins into seed buyers’ fields – the obvious next step for the technology – multiplies and magnifies the benefits.

Tracking seed tubers from their field of origin all the way through to their eventual field of production could bridge existing communication gaps between sellers and buyers, improving transparency and the transfer of production knowledge. Should any seed performance issue or problem arise for the buyer, both the seller and buyer would have a clearer picture of the cause, better information to solve the problem, and more confidence to continue their business relationship. If I were a seed seller, this is information I’d want to share. If I were a seed buyer, I’d feel much more confident investing with someone who offered such transparency.

And the benefits wouldn’t stop there. Consumers today expect at-their-fingertips access to information about when, where, and especially how their food is produced. Promoting potatoes depends on seamlessly sharing information between all links in the potato value chain in order to provide a transparent, complete story to consumers. Growers who prioritize capturing and sharing information about their production will position themselves – and the industry – for success; growers who choose to operate as independent, unconnected silos may find themselves left behind.

While existing field to storage mapping technology could easily be adapted to track tubers forward into a seed buyer’s fields, it will likely be at least a handful of years before the technology is actually applied this way. Currently, seed lots of the same variety are piled together when the seed arrives with the buyer. This results in some blending. More blending occurs when the seed is processed through the cutter and treatment line to a holding bin, and again when treated seed moves to the planter. In order to track seed effectively from the seller’s field all the way to the buyer’s field, seed lots would have to be kept separate and tuber movement at every stage would need to be more mindful. Though these challenges may seem daunting, agriculture is full of creative, forward thinking innovators.

As each link in the value chain begins to demand detailed, transparent data about exactly when, where and how the potatoes they buy were grown, success – both marketing success and operational success – will come to those growers who embrace data capture and sharing.

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