Jan-Cees van de Maas, farmer from Numansdorp, the Netherlands
What was the market situation?
In the past 20 years the global demand for potatoes has increased massively, above all through much higher consumption in China, India, the Middle East and Russia. Key potato-growing countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands are thus playing an even greater role in meeting this demand. Potatoes are a key crop in both countries. Potatoes are grown on almost 100,000 ha in Belgium and around 160,000 ha in the Netherlands. However, in both countries the shortage of suitable farmland and the need for crop rotation mean there is little room for increasing the potato-growing acreage. So gains in potato production are only possible through even greater efficiency and precision technology. However, efficiency gains will not come easily since potato production in both countries is already highly developed.
Willy Ronsmans, farmer from Bertem, Belgium
What was the solution?
Since joining forces in 2015, Farm Frites and Bayer have paved the way for sustainable innovations, e.g. research in new potato varieties, integrated pest management solutions, experiments with biodiversity enhancement measures, newly developed technical tools, and biological crop protection products. But all these innovations would be worth very little without testing them on potato farms and engaging with farmers in dialogue. That is why Farm Frites and Bayer have established 12 pilot projects on ambassador farms in Belgium and the Netherlands since 2015.
This Food Chain Partnership has three major goals: first, to further promote good agricultural practices among potato farmers focusing on operator safety and protection of the environment; secondly, to exchange knowledge of innovative solutions that contribute to sustainable potato growing; thirdly, to get stakeholders along the value chain involved in a constructive, sustainability-oriented dialogue. Farm Frites’ excellent connections with potato farmers in the two countries have proved a great advantage in reaching out to them. This has also enabled Bayer to step in and engage with these farmers on tailored solutions involving, among other things, fewer chemical-based active ingredients and the latest stewardship measures.