Tasmania keeps you going on French Fries | OPINION

Tasmania keeps you going on French Fries | OPINION

Opinion
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Tassie-based McCain Foods is about rev up its French fries production.


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I REGULARLY write about "small is beautiful" when it comes to fruit and vegetable production over here.

It's a fact, but it's time for "big is beautiful" to get a mention - after all, one x 100 gives the same result as 100 x one.

This was triggered by the recent field trip on seed potato production which I reported to you. I have a vested interest as my Ph D thesis was on this topic. The title was:

"The effects of nutrient treatments of potato plants on the performance of their progeny."

It was carried out at the National Vegetable Research Station near Stratford on Avon.

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This was funded by the 700 or so members of the NVR Association, which included HJ Heinz Ltd, who funded my research scholarship, so it was very practical

For instance, for one experiment: "The practical implications of this are that, weight for weight, seed tubers with a high N content can give a higher earlier yield than tubers with a low N content. The traditional practice is to produce seed tubers low in N."

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries did admit that "in view of the lack of experimental data on manuring of seed crops in ware areas, specific recommendations cannot be made".

I was staggered to find recently that, 52 years later, it is still being cited in the standard text book on potatoes (at the risk of being pedantic, they're not "seed" in the strict sense of the word, rather tubers, but let's not get too carried away).

The recent field trip was organised by Tasmanian Seed Potatoes, who are the sole suppliers to McCain for their seed program.

I've mentioned previously their arch-rivals, Simplot. Simplot processes over 300,000 tonnes, whilst McCain processes 120,000.

I decided to follow up with an interview on site with one of the four directors, Conor O'Doherty.

The virus pandemic put paid to that, so we have been doing the best we can by e-mail (and Easter getting in the way didn't help).

Tasmanian Seed Potatoes is a stand-alone business which happens to be located on the same site as Cherry Hill Coolstores in Latrobe, who have been in operation since 1990.

Their nine full-time staff and 18 casuals support 18 growers who produce 10,000 tonnes of seed potatoes for McCain growers not to mention around 5000 tonnes for Simplot and 3000 for the fresh market.

The main interest at the moment is their potato variety "Innovator".

It's a PBR variety, which means that no one else in the processing industry can grow this variety unless McCain gives permission.

If you have a look on the web: "Innovator is a yellow-flesh, Russet -shaped potato variety with superior flavour and taste."

That makes it one of the 5000 or so growing around the world (that includes hundreds of "varieties" comprising very small numbers grown very locally in very small settlements).

Realistically, there are no more than about a dozen in Tasmania - have a look at the supermarket vegetable section.

My favourite is "Dutch Cream" but each to his own.

So, watch out for the McCain French Fries with superior flavour and taste, soon to be on sale in your local supermarket.

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