Andrew Francis

Andrew Francis, Elveden Estate farm manager

An estate in west Suffolk and a Perthshire-based farm business have been named as two new AHDB strategic potato farms (SPot).

They join the already established Staffordshire SPot farm to become regional research and demonstration hubs for potato growers and suppliers, applying AHDB scientific research on a farm scale and helping growers to implement changes on their own farms.

Elveden Farms Estate near Thetford, Suffolk, stretches over 9,400ha, of which 3,500ha is arable with the rest woodland and heathland. Cropping includes potatoes, onions, carrots,  parsnips and combinable crops.

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Farm manager Andrew Francis, who was one of Farmers Weekly’s Arable Farmer of the Year finalists in 2014, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Elveden and the wider community. It will allow us to engage with the country’s best scientists and find ways of putting the research into practice.

“Through the knowledge exchange activities this experience will be available to all growers, and we will be able to lead change in the industry and look forward to a sustainable future.”

The Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative, which is is run by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP), is providing the research project with a total of £109,273.

Kerr Howatson

Kerr Howatson, potato manager, Bruce Farms

Further north, Bruce Farms, based at Meigle in Perthshire is to become the AHDB’s first Scottish strategic potato farm.

The farm business is one of Scotland’s larger potato farms, growing over 270ha each year, plus cereals, blackcurrants, soft fruit, peas and beans, alongside a pedigree cattle enterprise.

Bruce Farms’ potato manager Kerr Howatson said: “We aim to be forward thinking and to produce the best commercial potato crops that we possibly can on our own and rented ground across Perthshire and the Borders.

“It will be an extremely interesting opportunity to apply science to our commercial decision making process, challenge conventional working practices and bridge the gap between proven research and farm practice.”

For more information on the AHDB’s strategic potato farms project, visit the AHDB Potatoes website.