No Waste, Just Opportunities
While the majority of our produce is Class 1, there is always a portion of every crop that is either left behind in the field or outside of the specification. All of our surplus to requirements produce went for stock feed and to community foodbanks like FoodCloud. While these efforts to channel our produce meant that we were a zero-food-waste facility, we still challenged ourselves to find higher food value, alternative markets for it.
Identifying a gap in the foodservice/catering market for premium quality peeled and chipped potatoes, we invested in a peeling line four years ago. This enterprise utilised our Class 1 as well as some potatoes that had initially been graded as surplus to requirements. This business has thrived, now necessitating an expansion to two lines. We now sell IFQA award-winning branded peeled/chipped potatoes to retailers.
The by-product from the peeling process was initially fed to beef cattle, as was all surplus to requirement potatoes. However, the installation and subsequent recent upgrade of a starch extractor can now use all these potatoes, giving us a food grade starch that can be sold on the open market (Ireland’s ONLY indigenous starch ingredient), or used in other complementary products.
On-farm crop loss is another area where we felt there were better alternatives. For many years, the crops that fell through the harvester were left in the field to be used as fertiliser for the next crop, usually of grass or spring barley. We were approached by our long-time collaborator FoodCloud in 2016 to help them set up a gleaning network and were delighted to support them as it would help reduce on-farm crop loss. Gleaning is where produce left behind in the field is picked up and distributed to those in need. We have since introduced new growers to the network, new corporate volunteer groups and trialed gleaning with local schools. This educates young people early about waste prevention, agriculture and volunteerism, so it is a win-win all around.