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Potatoes Norway
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Potatoes – Minne Gård, Norway

The focus of this case study is to show how a farming enterprise can operate within the limitations of the prevailing climate and environment, while still increasing the profitability of the business by growing high quality potatoes and investing in carefully considered diversification opportunities.

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Key areas of good practice
Assurance/certification:

The farm is certified under the Norwegian Agricultural Quality Assurance Scheme, KSL Matmerk. KSL is the main agricultural quality assurance scheme in Norway and covers all aspects of production from food safety, product quality, traceability, environment, and worker welfare.

Agrotechnology:

Minne Gård has invested in several precision technologies including GPS. The farm uses this technology to support the accurate application of crop inputs, including fertiliser, and Plant Protection Products (PPP). GPS is also fitted to the crop sprayer which helps decrease PPP application inaccuracies by limiting overlaps and off target treatments. GPS is also used to help improve the accuracy of potato planting.

Minne Gård Farm has recently invested in a Yara N-sensor, developed for site-specific management of nitrogen application. The N-Sensor is mounted on the tractor roof where it measures light reflectance, a gauge of plant growth, from the crops as the tractor and application equipment move through the field.

Crop initiatives

Minne Gård uses a split application of phosphorus fertilizer in order to provide a timely supply of nutrient throughout the plants' growing stages. Mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP), a soluble form of phosphorus, is applied directly around the region of seed tuber growth for optimum uptake. It is applied initially at the time of planting, and again at tuber initiation to generate more tubers and a more even tuber set.

Soil health:

For the past 10 years Minne Gård Farm has used soil sampling to measure and monitor levels of key nutrients and pH across the farm. The technology provides a detailed picture for the application of fertilisers and lime to achieve optimum and consistent soil nutrient levels across the entire arable area.

Product Quality:

Around 40% of the potato crop planted at Minne Gård Farm is of the variety Innovator. The Innovator is a durable variety with high disease resistance, notably to the ubiquitous late blight and airborne diseases, making it especially suitable for the harsher climate in Norway.

Through careful variety selection and efficient crop management, the farm has achieved consistently high yields with 38 tonnes per hectare produced in 2011, 58.3% higher than the national average potato yield in Norway.

Water:

Minne Gård irrigates its crops using computer controlled hose reels operating rain guns, a flexible and adaptable approach that, when correctly operated, provides a uniform and consistent quantity of water.

Renewable Energy:

The farm has invested in a biomass boiler operating on woodchip produced exclusively from trees grown on the farm. The boiler has decreased fuel oil requirements by 28,000 litres, providing an annual saving of 147,000 Nkr /year (€20,000/year).

Ecosystem protection:

The woodlands and field margins are being developed in a way that will benefit local wildlife and improve soil quality on the farm. The farm is also undertaking measures to protect the population of pollinator bees in the local area.

Staff:

Part-time staff salaries exceed that stipulated in a collective agreement for employees in agriculture and horticulture in Norway. In addition staff are provided with subsidized housing and access to a car with inclusive fuel.

Management:

The farm works with local consultants who inform and advise on the best practice for disease management and nutrient planning. By using national and local disease risk forecasting, appropriate quantities of fungicide are applied in a timely, effective way, saving resources and protecting the surrounding environment. The farm is also engaged in trial work with Yara in the optimisation of nutrient inputs, including efficient application of nitrogen and phosphorus.

The farm enterprise has diversified beyond agricultural production. The farmhouse has been converted into a Bed & Breakfast accommodation and the family have developed a fishing tourism venture using the local resources. A café and shop have been opened on the farm premises, and farm buildings are frequently rented out for events.