Waxy potatoes: cultivation with added value.

Christoph Renken, farmer on the Lüneburger Heide, shares his practical experiences of working with Royal Avebe and growing waxy potatoes on his farm

What significance do waxy potatoes have for your business?

“With our partnership, which consists of two farms, we cultivate around 500 hectares of land. The cultivation of energy-generating plants destined for the biogas and cogeneration systems accounts for the largest cultivation area and labour time. Personally, I had always wanted to start growing potatoes again with this farm. About five years ago, we started growing waxy potatoes on about 15 hectares, and this has now grown to 50 hectares. Occupying approximately 10% of the total cultivated area, the waxy potato already plays a critical role for the added value of our company.”

What are the advantages of waxy potatoes?

“As I wanted to start growing potatoes again with our farm, I looked for a way to do this with our capacity. The cultivation of consumption potatoes is always subject to fluctuating market prices and high fixed costs. The investment in the necessary storage technology alone would result in a high overhead. During peak periods, especially in spring and autumn, we do not have enough capacity for the time- and cost-intensive delivery or storage of these potatoes. In this respect, I was convinced by Avebe’s concept. With the cultivation of waxy potatoes, the overhead remained low. The risk was manageable in combination with the transport organised by the factory. The price Avebe is paying me covers costs very well and ensures a good return. By choosing to grow waxy potatoes, we have been able to bring back into our business potatoes that are very efficient in terms of labour intensity and at the same time offer great added value for our business economy.”

What added value does the waxy potato cultivation offer?

“As well as the added business value, cultivating this product also provides a personal benefit. We form part of a unique production chain with this special starch potato variety. We do not produce a meaningless or insignificant product that will be lost somewhere in the industry and is therefore easy to replace, but rather a valuable raw material: the waxy starch. This is highly motivating for us. The waxy potato is just as attractive from a business point of view. Depending on individual cultivation skills, yields of waxy starch potatoes can be achieved that are only slightly lower than those of conventional starch potatoes. Because of the higher fee Avebe pays for our waxy starch, there is a positive difference of about 15 to 20 per cent in coverage compared to the ordinary starch potato.”

What advantages do you have through the Avebe cultivation contract?

“As mentioned before, the transport organised by the factory is a great advantage offered to us by the cultivation contract with Avebe. At the beginning of the year, I specify the planned cultivation area and locations. Avebe then makes an internal pick-up planning for the next campaign and informs me when and how much will be picked up. This planning has been done so effectively that we can make an efficient and long-term assessment and take decisions on that basis, even before the fields are processed. Another thing that helped me a lot, especially at the beginning of the cultivation, was the support I was given by Avebe. As a contract grower, we had access to a cultivation advisor who could help us with all our questions about the successful cultivation of waxy potatoes. This support was very valuable, especially at the beginning. For example, we used too much fertiliser at first, which caused the potato crops to grow too fast and reduced the starch yields. On the advice of our crop consultant, we lowered the N-intake and the current result with 150kg N is very good. Waxy potato cultivation call for 100% crop rotation. Buying new seed potatoes again and again is not cheap, of course. Nevertheless, we are very satisfied with the seed potatoes we buy from Avebe. So far, the quality is always perfect, and from our perspective, the prices for the growers and the propagator are also decent and fair.”

What do you think the future holds for waxy potato cultivation?

“Personally, I think we are producing for a growth market. The demand for waxy starch as an equivalent replacement for animal gelatine is increasing. Waxy starch is a good product that can be processed well for industrial applications and according to current standards. I believe that there is still a lot of potential in this area.” “At the moment, we are all probably very concerned about the rising energy cost. Exciting times await us in which both risks and opportunities lie ahead. I am optimistic that Avebe will ensure that the added value for the grower and breeder is maintained despite these changing conditions. In recent years Avebe has also proven to be a good partner.”

Market for Waxy potato starch is on the rise.

Today’s food producers are looking for ways to produce their product cost-effectively while maintaining quality. Waxy potato starch can be used in applications where ordinary potato starch is less desirable, such as dairy products. Royal Avebe has put an innovative technique on the market with Eliane waxy potato starch, with all the good functionalities of potato starch, says Manager Food Applications Willeke Thürkow. Ordinary potato starch consists of both amylose and amylopectin. The starch of waxy potatoes consists of more than 99 per cent amylopectin. The adhesive property is important, and therefore ideal for dairy products and bakery filling products, but also for meat applications and meat substitutes. The beauty of the Eliane products is their smooth and shiny appearance, versatile processing and the unique possibilities for different food textures,” says Thürkow. “Moreover, you can get by with a relatively low portion of the product, making it attractive from a cost point of view.” Waxy potato starch has the additional advantage of replacing several ingredients, thus reducing the list of ingredients

No unwanted gelling

The functionalities of waxy potato starch are very attractive for dairy products, continues Business Leader Food Goos Wierbos. “Waxy potato starch has very nice properties for dairy, as it does not cause any unwanted gel formation. Regular potato starch tends to yield a long and slimy structure. Consumers do not want that. The waxy starch can be used widely; it also performs very well in mayonnaise, dressings, sauces or crispy coated nuts.” Eliane, the potato variety for waxy potato starch, was developed by Avebe using the classic breeding method. Because we grow our own potato varieties, we have all the properties of our final product under control - from field to fork, says Thürkow. “Eliane was our first big potato variety. We are continuously working on the further development of the varieties. We are also working on developing new waxy starch products and coming up with new applications.”

Growing market

Avebe now makes a whole range of waxy starch products for all kinds of markets and applications, says Wierbos. “We have a range of more than 25 different products. Consumer needs are not the same everywhere: in America, something different is expected of the product than in Europe or Asia. Expanding the waxy cultivation area in 2023 is desirable to make and keep waxy products available worldwide. We see the market for waxy potato starch growing, both from our own development and from customer demand. As Avebe, we focus on plant-based. Waxy fits into that philosophy, both on the starch and protein side.”