After a tumultuous two years of Covid, Ireland welcomed the 11th World Potato Congress with Cead Mile Failte and superb organisation while Meade Farm welcomed the celebration of our key crop.
Little did the local organising committee of the Irish Potato Federation who pitched to host the 11th World Potato Congress in Ireland know how events would transpire to make their theme of The Changing World of the Potato such a prescient one. While the pressures of climate change, food poverty and Brexit had initially prompted their adoption of this sustainability theme for the congress, events overtook us all.
The Covid pandemic reared its ugly head in February of 2020, impacting the world profoundly. Postponing the Congress a year from 2021 to 2022 was the least of our worries. In 2022, just when we emerged from a tough two years spent grieving, worrying and were ready to move on, mend our disrupted supply chains and get back to business, Putin invaded Ukraine. This act of imperialist aggression has thrown the world into a tailspin.
Brexit, once the overriding concern for many Irish and British people, has now taken a backseat to Covid, the Russian invasion and an energy crisis. All of which serve to emphasise that the potato does indeed live in a very much changing world.
Climate change, food poverty, food security, sustainable production, sustainable consumption, resource weaponistaion ... with so many issues facing us, the three plus days of research, discussion and networking at the RDS in Dublin from 30 May to 1 June did indeed receive a hundred thousand welcomes from the Irish potato industry and the 1000 congress delegates from over 60 countries!
We are happy to report that despite the gravity of the issues facing us, the WPC was a positive and altogether enjoyable event. There were numerous foreign dignitaries, ambassadors and politicians present among the delegates, but the Irish hospitality kept the occasion very relaxed. The RDS was the perfect venue with the concert hall for the main speakers and breakout rooms for more focused talks. The main hall accommodated the exhibitors with ample room to circulate, sit and chat. Good barista coffee was in short supply but that was our only complaint, all other hoispitality was excellent! Huge congratulations to Liam Glennon and the local organising committee and Keynote the conference organisers.
Research was debated, business deals were done and climate issues were discussed in an atmosphere fuelled by appreciation of how lucky we were to be able to debate, deal and discuss together in a hall without masks. Lot of challenges ahead... but happy days!
We were thrilled to sponsor the event and to share the story of our potato starch, an innovative product driven by a desire to be sustainable. We were even more thrilled to learn more ways to further improve our growing, packing and distributing operations. And of course, we were delighted to just meet interesting people working with potatoes from all over the world.
We welcomed almost a hundred delegates from 20 different countries to Meade Farm for a technical tour. They came from various backgrounds - academics, commercial seed growers, equipment dealers, growers, management consultants - all with an interrest in seeing how we were using innovation and sustainability to grow our business. Our team put together a zippy, informative tour and were on hand to explain and interact all along the way. They learned from us and we learned from them.
And of course, as always is the case with visitors to Ireland, they raved about the food. How lucky is Ireland to have such rich, fertile soil and such great food producers, and how lucky are we to have such a great canteen for our employees and guests.
We are inspired to keep growing potatoes as sustainably as possible. They are a key crop in tackling food security, food hunger and better nutrition. Potatoes produce more food per unit of water than major grain crops and are up to seven times more efficient in using water than cereals. Over 150 countries grow potatoes because they are able to use land and water more effectively than other crops. Yields of potatoes are one of the highest of all crops, five times higher than rice. Their nutritional content is amazing - a 148g serving has 48% of your Vitamin C, 18% of your potassium and is full of healthy fibre.
All of which is to say that the humble spud truly deserved to have a such a successful event to discuss and celebrate it. We were honoured to support the congress and we are determined to redouble our efforts to bring sustainable potatoes to the world!
Some highlights of our congress:
Having a stand next to the Ukrainian Association of Potato Producers and talking to Mykola Gordichuk of the unbelievable troubles he faced planting his potatoes this year amid Russian occupation and disrupted supply chains...
Learning from Binad of the Nepalese National Potato Research Programme that Nepalese teenagers are a new growing market that love their spice-bag style chips with cumin and chili powder...
Being inspired by VITA and their hopes to empower 4 million farmers in Ethiopia to produce more food and have better lives through a successful potato growing programme...
Meeting the gang from Elders in Australia (pictured above, top) potato seed importers who say that Australians love waxy potatoes - we thought they'd be floury types like their Irish relations...
Excellent emceeing by Andy Doyle of the Irish Farmers Journal...
Making the acquaintance of Sherman Thomson of Utah State University who is semi-retired but is attending to catch up with old friends from all over the world who share his interest in potato research...
And of course discovering that Mr. Tayto is as excited about our new potato starch as we are - pictured here with Cliona our NPD Manager!