Graeme Skinner, Monkton Court Farms, Kent
PERFECT POTATOES – AFTER A YEAR IN STORE
Following a difficult marketing season for the 2017 crop, a new potato store is proving its worth twice over for Monkton Court Farms.
It has allowed them to store potatoes for over a year without loss of quality, and is also proving to be very energy efficient.
The new 3,500 tonne store has excelled in its first season, holding some of the farm’s crops of Desiree and King Edward potatoes in ‘just harvested’ condition all year.
It was built during 2017 to replace a series of smaller stores which were destroyed in a fire at Philip Smith’s Monkton Court Farms, near Ramsgate in Kent.
After discussing how best to rebuild with Graeme Skinner of Provenance Potatoes, who manages the stores and markets the crops, Philip decided to employ Crop Systems Ltd to build the new store:
“We had heard Ray Andrews talk at various events and liked the company’s approach. The old stores were built in the early 1990s and were beginning to show their age”, says Philip.
“This was an opportunity to design a new store which would enable the business to meet customer requirements into the future and store in the most efficient manner.
In place of three separate ware stores, they have built one new building housing three ware stores and a seed store that between them hold a total of 3,040 1.2 tonne bins, giving a total capacity of over 3,500 tonnes.
This allows the business to store all the 60 hectares of potatoes they grow. The crop is marketed to supermarkets and the food service sector by Provenance Potatoes.
The new stores are of an open plenum design and incorporate Crop Systems’ recirculation system to ensure even suppressant application.
They use glycol-based fridge units rather than the direct expansion system used in the previous stores. In addition they use adiabatic cooling and humidity control, which Graeme says has helped ensure excellent performance:
“The difficult market conditions persuaded us it would be sensible to hold the crop for longer than we normally might, and the new store enabled us to do that. Deterioration is absolutely minimal.
“Sprout suppression has also been very successful, which indicates that airflow, temperature control and distribution have all been excellent.
“We made a single application early in the season and it has provided superb control throughout”.
Last autumn the store was loaded on September 10th, and some of the crop was still be there on the first anniversary. While they did not set out to do that, the store’s ability to hold potatoes has enabled them to hold onto crops for longer than planned and market them to best advantage.
Storage costs are significantly lower than previously, says Graham, thanks in part to using electricity from the farm’s solar panels, but also due to the store’s efficiency:
“It is achieving significant savings in energy use and we know precisely how much energy we are using in each store. We keep crops at an average 2.8oC, and to date this has resulted in a use of approximately 70kwH per tonne over the season, despite the very high average summer temperature.
One valuable feature of the new facility is Crop Systems’ SmartStorTM, which enables both men to monitor the store’s operation: “Being able to check everything is working correctly – and make adjustments whenever needed – without actually visiting the store is a big time saving, and I have logged into it from West Wales”.
Philip – who admits to checking the store while on holiday in the South of Spain – agrees:
“Being able to monitor the stores remotely is very important. We can both pick up on any problems really quickly. The SmartStorTM system captures a lot of data continuously that was only measured manually from time to time in the past, such as CO2 levels and humidity. As a result we can feel confident that the crop is being stored in optimum condition”.