Each year we start with more than 30 different varieties of potato, and each year we look for that one, perfect potato that we can use to make the very best fries and potato specialities.
Why do we conduct variety trials?
We first need to go back in time. Until 1994, the only potatoes used to make fries in Western Europe were Bintjes. However, Farm Frites has now developed a range of varieties that can be used to make potato products, partly to spread the risk. In addition, Farm Frites no longer just grows potatoes in Europe, but worldwide. We therefore work with many different climates and soil types; in Western Europe and parts of Argentina and China we grow potatoes in a sea climate, and in Egypt in a desert climate.
A new variety must provide added value – it is as simple as that. Farm Frites is always looking for better varieties to be able to make even better chilled and frozen fries and potato specialities such as mashed potato, potato wedges and potato pancakes. We therefore grow different varieties for use in our wide range of products.
We select potatoes with a high yield and the right shape and length. Yield is very important – the more tonnes produced per hectare, the more fries we can make. A potato needs to be long and have ‘shoulders’ – in other words, it needs to be wide at the top and bottom to be able to produce a lot of long fries from one potato. Specific gravity also plays an important role. If this is high, the dry matter content of the potato is also high, which is good for making fries. If it is too low, we end up with soft fries.
If the potato properties match Farm Frites requirements, we can start the test phase. In the first, year, we start with about 30 new varieties that we grow on small test plots. The new varieties are tested at various Farm Frites production locations, so that we have a good idea of how they do in different climates and soils.
Many varieties are dropped as the years go by, and eventually we are left with about five varieties that are planted out in larger fields. These ‘top five’ are tested for the following quality characteristics: yield, specific gravity, length, eyes (defects), weight, cooking quality and storage properties.
After eight (!) years, we are finally left with one variety that Farm Frites believes is good enough to be used in Farm Frites products.