Shropshire Star

Meet the next generation of innovators in potato sector

AHDB Potatoes launched its first ever Next Generation programme at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, in May, writes Jim Davies.


Fifteen high fliers, who successfully completed a robust selection process competing with applicants across all regions and market sectors, gathered for the first time. The group will complete nine comprehensive business and technical days that will run until March 2016 and will provide exposure to the whole supply chain.

The Next Generation delegates included, from Shropshire, John Glazebrook-Milner of Wilfred Maddocks Ltd, and Lee Sharp of Maincrop Potatoes.

Somerset-based Branston graduate trainee Amber Cottingham said: "It's great to be around so many other like-minded young people who are clearly very passionate about potatoes.

"We need to inspire the public to fall back in-love with potatoes. I'm keen to make a positive impact on our industry."

AHDB skills champion and policy advisor for McCain Foods, Graham Finn, encouraged the group to stretch their abilities. "Your level of aspiration will determine your level of achievement. You owe it to yourselves be the best you can be."

Opportunities in the potato sector are immense. An AHDB survey identified over 60 per cent of farming companies and supply chain businesses find it difficult to secure employees of the right calibre, with the majority believing they'll have a resource gap over the next five years.

John Reid is a partner in the family business growing 200ha of potatoes and 400ha of combinable crops in Angus, Scotland.

"I was drawn to the sector initially by the level of mechanisation and complexity involved in producing the crop. But now it is the potential financial returns that can be achieved from producing the crop to a high standard that appeals.

"I'm proud to be part of a group who are enthusiastic about the future of our industry. By broadening my knowledge I aim to adapt our own business to cope with the challenges that inevitably lie ahead."

Andrew Wilson, a grower for the Colton group and family tenants of the Castle Howard estate for decades, supplies to chip and crisping markets. His unique practical experience, business outlook and straight-talking approach, went down well with the group.

"There's always a better way of doing things," says Andrew. "I challenge current practice on a daily basis."

By Jim Davies, AHDB Potatoes

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