Growers graduate

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The latest crop of potato growers have graduated from the MacFry Potato Academy, the specialist agronomy and management industry training course.

The academy is a joint initiative between NIAB and McDonald’s UK and Ireland, in association with potato suppliers McCain Foods and Lamb Weston, aimed at the 209 farmers that supply the potatoes for McDonald’s iconic Fries, served within their 1,400 restaurants across the UK.

This is the academy’s second group of growers, with seven delegates starting the course in February 2019. It was followed up with five days of intensive classroom training at NIAB in Cambridge across the year plus additional online training and coursework. Current and past academy graduates have access to the NIAB CUF Potato Yield Model programme, a set of digital crop modelling and irrigation scheduling tools, to put the knowledge they have learnt into practice on their own farms.

The MacFry Potato Academy is a key component in ensuring a vibrant and sustainable potato industry that can secure a growing volume of great quality ingredients to McDonald’s. The academy’s aim is to ensure McDonald’s growers have the skills and knowledge to improve and maximise crop performance and quality.

McDonald’s UK and Ireland Agriculture Consultant Alice Willett said: “Supporting the UK potato farmers that supply our menu is incredibly important to us. The MacFry Academy is a fundamental part of our commitment to developing skills and knowledge within our supply base, helping farmers to understand what makes the perfect MacFry and providing free access to recognised industry experts.”

NIAB’s Tim Parfitt said: “Utilising NIAB’s ARTIS training platform, www.artistraining.com, we have a bespoke programme of technical training to equip McDonald’s growers with the skills to grow the perfect potato for the production of McFries. Each stage of the crop’s management, from seed production through to nutrition, water management, farm safety and storage, is covered taking into account the key requirements for McDonald’s, such as long tuber length.”

Academy delegate Michael Hardstaff said: “The MacFry Academy has really boosted my interest in learning new skills and information and in supporting my decision-making. The training has benefited the whole farm business as I can share the knowledge with my farm colleagues.”