Serving the Farming Industry across the Midlands for 35 Years
£2m project aims to change the way UK potatoes are grown, stored and transported – and ultimately secure a net zero carbon supply...

A £2m project aims to change the way UK potatoes are grown, stored and transported – and ultimately secure a net zero carbon supply chain for the crop.

The Net Zero Hectare project is led by Lincolnshire-based potato supplier Branston in partnership with B-hive Innovations, Crop Systems, Lincoln University, David Armstrong Farms and the Arbikie Distillery.

Together, the partnership has secured £2.06 million in funding acquired from the government’s Farming Innovation Programme, run by Defra in cooperation with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The three-year collaborative project will work with industry experts in each part of the supply chain to idrentiy ways tackle the three key areas of emissions in growing ware potato crops: fertiliser, storage, and transport.

New approach

B-hive Innovations managing director Vidyanath Gururajan said: “We’re delighted to have been awarded this funding to support our aim of net zero. Pulling different technologies to solve real world problems is at the heart of what we do at B-hive Innovations.”

Collaborating with Lincoln University, the project is trialling innovative approaches to growing potatoes. It aims to show how better crop management, including reduced tillage, improves soil composition and crop resilience much more than previously tested.

Lead researchers Sandra Varga and Iain Gould said: “This is a unique opportunity to try something farmers usually are unable to trial due to capacity and cost limitations. The advances it could bring will significantly transform the farming industry.”

Extensive research seek to understand how by-products from the potato peeling process can be used as low-carbon fertiliser. This aims to release 80% fewer kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per hectare than industry-standard synthetic fertilisers.

Lincolnshire farmer David Armstrong will trial the field research. “Reducing our on-farm carbon emissions is essential for the future of our planet, therefore 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 the Arbikie Distillery in Montrose, said he was delighted to be involved in such an innovative and potentially important project. 

Carbon emissions

“It is vitally important for us to look at all aspects of our carbon emissions and how we can make things better. This project gives us the opportunity to challenge some conventional thinking across all scopes and look to improve our carbon footprint substantially.”

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

The firm is also looking at how to improve crop transport. Pre-conditioning potatoes ready for retail during transport could reduce storage time in warehouses. A similar system to maintain the optimum temperature could reduce potato bruising.

Crop Systems managing director Ray Andrews said: “We are proud to be involved in this important project and can’t wait to impart our potato storage knowledge and experience, helping to work towards a net-zero supply chain.”

Branston technical director Mark Willcox said: “This funding marks a significant milestone in the collaboration between Branston and B-hive and we’re incredibly excited to continue to share knowledge and innovate potato production, storage and transport.

“The project is sure to step-change the entire potato industry and leads the opportunity for dramatic change across the whole supply chain.”