iPot project aims to increase production of potatoes
03 - 09 - 2014
The Belgian potato sector is embarking on a three-year project to improve potato-growing. The aim is to achieve higher yields per hectare and better-quality potatoes.
Increasing potato yields
With this innovative research project, Belgapom has set its sights on a sustainable increase in Belgian potato output. To this end, the project, named iPot, will collect data from on the ground, from the air via drones and from space via satellites. Combining this data in a user-friendly tool should ensure an increase in potato yields.
The growth that the Belgian potato sector has experienced in recent years is quite spectacular. In ten years, the area under potato cultivation has risen from around 64,000 hectares to a record high of 80,000 acres in 2014. The quantity of processed potatoes has also risen impressively in the same period: from around 2.5 million tonnes in the early 2000s to 3.4 million tonnes last year. “Our country is the world’s largest exporter of frozen potato products, and over a quarter of our output is exported to countries outside the EU,” says Romain Cools, secretary of Belgapom.
The sector still sees room for growth
The targeted growth must first of all be sustainable, Belgapom says. The availability of sufficient potatoes as a raw material is crucial here. Techniques from precision farming should help in this respect, particularly by combining weather data, soil maps, growth models, field observations, and aerial and satellite images on the geo-informatics platform, iPot.
During the project, which was launched on 1 June 2014 and runs until spring 2017, the researchers want to collect information about potato cultivation using satellite images, aerial images, weather station data, crop growth models and so on.
Measuring which potato variety does well
In addition to external data, data from the potato industry can be centralised on the geo-information platform, such as the results of samples for yield and quality determination. This then makes it simple, for instance, to find out where a particular potato variety does well or poorly, and what the possible cause might be.
The goal of this project is to create a user-friendly platform that makes information available to the potato sector so that it can take action in the event of problems in the field with greater speed and efficiency.
The iPot platform is being developed not just for the sector, but also with input from the sector, which also includes potato dealers and processors, and potato research centres in Flanders and Wallonia (PCA, Inagro, FIWAP and CARAH).