According to figures released by Farmers Weekly*, imports of potatoes to the UK rose by almost 15% in the last quarter of 2012. This has put substantial pressure on growers and packers to find more efficient vegetable processing methods, and who are now competing for contracts in an international marketplace.
This tough financial situation, combined with rising planting costs and some of the most challenging lifting conditions for over 30 years, has hit potato farmers hard; resulting in minimal profits.
However, to combat these challenges, equipment providers have invested significantly in developing new technologies, not only to enhance vegetable processing efficiency and value for money, but also to be adaptable for changing conditions.
Here, Charles Tong, Managing Director of Tong Engineering, discusses the latest developments in specialist handling equipment, designed to maximise the profitability of crop yields and reduce unnecessary wastage.
“Last year was particularly testing for farmers and packers, driven by continually rising planting costs and minimal harvest return, which more than offset the higher crop prices achieved,” commented Charles. “This left those on fixed-price contracts the worst off, gaining little from increased value.
“However, although profits are low and international competition is beginning to rise, there is still hope for packers and growers.
“Key buyers prioritising UK produce, an upward curve for crop prices and more favorable weather conditions predicted for the start of the growing season seems to be the bright light at the end of the tunnel.
“This said, the only surefire tactic to maximising profitability and yield quality is by embracing efficient processes and modern technologies.”
With over 80 years of industry experience, Tong is one of the UK’s leading designers and manufacturers of vegetable handling equipment – investing significantly into developing machinery to provide optimum cleaning, destoning, grading and handling of crop.
To help combat extreme weather and challenging lifting conditions, Tong has developed the Storemaker – a mobile hopper-cleaner. Bringing new technologies to in-field cleaning, the newly designed Storemaker offers a compact, efficient and gentle handling process, capable of effectively cleaning up to 80 tonnes of crop per hour.
Featuring the latest technological advancements and cleaning innovation, including Tong’s EasyClean separator with Blue Inverter Technology, the new machine is the perfect solution to handling crop in challenging conditions, giving growers the ability to clean crop on site – reducing the likelihood of spoiling or depreciation.
Tong’s Blue Inverter Technology ensures that the variable speed motors only pull the necessary amount of power needed at any given time, meaning minimal energy consumption for the required load. With the need to alter variable speed motors to cope with differing loads and demands, the technology is the perfect accompaniment to Tong’s machinery.
Standard models of the Storemaker are manufactured with a 4.3m long hopper and in widths ranging from 1800 – 2400mm, meaning the machine can be specified to suit a range of throughput and handling requirements. The Storemaker can even be specified with the option of folding sides to make transport from one location to the next even easier. Accordingly, the machine’s flexibility makes it perfect for multi-site use; in the field, on the farm, going into store, or when directly loading into a bulker lorry.
Research and development into specialist machinery and technologies, such as the Storemaker, EasyClean and Blue Inverter Technology, has provided the industry with new ways to increase cost-effectiveness, while at the same time improving profitability.
By looking to constantly innovate and engage with new available technologies to help overcome poor growing and lifting conditions, farmers and growers can produce an increased volume of high quality – and profitable – crop.
In such testing times, increasing efficiencies and embracing cost-effective processing technologies is key to providing an increased volume of high value crop to buyers, helping UK growers to compete on a global scale.
Although an initial investment, the latest handling equipment is key to retaining profit and contracts, through increased throughputs, reduced labour costs and minimal maintenance requirements – future protecting your business.