Viewing new starch-friendly potato varieties and learning more about the Meade Farm starch operation were top of the agenda for the recent visit of World Potato Congress (WPC) delegates.
After three days of ground-breaking research presentations and industry networking in Dublin, close to 100 of the 1,000 delegates from the 11th WPC journeyed to Meade Farm in Lobinstown, Navan, Co. Meath on June 2, to see sustainability in action.
The delegates, from over 20 countries, were particularly interested in the innovative measures by the family farm business to more fully utilise their raw materials.
Meade’s 2020 investment in a state-of-the-art potato-starch extraction facility has created a new market which can aid the long-term sustainability of Ireland’s potato crops.
While the extraction operation at Meade Farm derives much of its sustainability credentials from the utilisation of surplus and Class II potato stocks, growing specific starch-friendly varieties can reduce carbon emissions and can serve as a back-up should surplus/Class II stocks become depleted.
Varieties with a higher dry matter content produce more starch and therefore, less tonnage goes through the system, requiring less energy.
Meade Farm is currently trialling the Ardeche variety which has over 25% dry matter and is high yielding.
This blight-resistant variety is also an option for organic growing, so might be an option for diversification into that market. Although not a starch variety, the processing variety, Palace, has a high dry matter content of 23% and a higher yield with a lower nitrogen application than most varieties currently used.
“Higher yields and less nitrogen use all add up for greater sustainability in our starch extraction and overall,” said Robert Devlin, general manager, Meade Farm.
“We look forward to testing out these varieties in the field and in the extraction process. All going well, they will be part of our planting schedule next March.”
Since commissioning the starch extraction facility in 2020, 3,500t of potato starch have been sold to manufacturers in Ireland, the UK and other export markets.
Its popularity as a certified gluten-free ingredient for thickening sauces, soups and stews, gluten-free baking and for crispy, light frying have earned it the food service product of the year in the Irish Quality Food Awards.
The world starch market grew by 9% year-on-year for the last six years due to its increased use in alternatives in plastic packaging, meat-free and sugar-free foodstuffs. The potato starch market has grown by 11% since last year.
For companies that are sustainability conscious, Meade potato starch boasts impressive sustainability credentials. The use of surplus potato stocks ticks the box of one of the top-three most actionable ways to stop climate change by preventing food waste.
The incorporation of a wind turbine and solar panels, as well as other renewable energy systems, to power the extraction plant also ticks many sustainability boxes.
“Added to those significant benefits are the carbon emissions saved by using a local producer versus starch shipped from Northern Europe or the US,” said Eleanor Meade, business operations manager.
“The case for using our potato starch really adds up, especially for manufacturers who are keen to show their commitment to reducing carbon emissions.”
It takes a potato one hour and a journey through approximately 300m of machinery before it is turned into starch. It can take up to 8t of potatoes to make 1t of starch, depending on the dry matter content, variety and time of the year.
Along the way, the potato undergoes 22 stages before it is turned into pure food-grade starch.
The various processes include washing; de-stoning; grading; rasping; sieving; de-sanding; hydro-cycloning; vacuuming; drying; cooling; vibrating; and bagging.
Meade potato starch is currently sold to manufacturers and food service clients in 25kg bag in tonne pallets and to retailers in 250g retail packs. It is currently stocked in Evergreen Health Food Stores and in its online shop. Other retail listings will soon be announced.