BLOG: Making a Career Out of Potatoes
Hot potato: a phrase that refers to a controversial issue or situation, which is awkward to deal with. Well, writes Andre Erasmus, being a success in the international potato industry is anything but that.
It can be the culmination of years of study, research, practical experience, ongoing learning and networking – all of which can be observed if you ever attend an International Potato Processing and Storage Convention (IPPSC).
There’s one coming up next year in Portland, Oregon, and, if the previous conventions are anything to go by, some of the industry’s top personalities will be there. And that’s just one of the interesting things about top people. They do not stop learning, sharing experiences and imparting knowledge.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to have attended a few of these events – in the USA, Canada, mainland Europe and the UK, meeting some fascinating, knowledgeable and wonderful people.
From each of these regions, I will highlight four different folk – all of whom have made a career out of things pertaining to the potato.
Starting in the USA, there is Tim Reardon, a larger-then-life character who knows more about potato processing than most people. Previously an employee of Key Technology in Walla Walla (lovely name!), he now works with tna. Reardon studied mechanical engineering at Gonzaga University, Washington, and has several patents to his name.
He has been a regular at IPPSC events and his career, which stretches over 25 years, covers the engineering and food industries, as well as sales, marketing and product development expertise.
In Nova Scotia, you will find Barbara Daniels-Lake, a private consultant for the potato industry, who loves scientific research on factors affecting the quality, utility and marketability of potatoes after harvest, with a special emphasis on long-term storage, sprout inhibition and processing quality.
Daniels-Lake has an MSc from Dalhousie University and a PhD in plant sciences from Wageningen University in The Netherlands, as well as having studied at Nova Scotia Agriculture College.
In mainland Europe, there are many industry people who are respected by their peers, one of whom I have met more than once at IPPSC events. I am speaking of Tjaart Hofman, another alumnus from Wageningen University, where he spent 10 years pursuing a doctorate in crop protection.
Hofman has been with Certis for 20 years and is currently the company’s technical marketing manager. A leading light in the industry, he has chaired the European Association for Potato Research’s Post-Harvest Section and acted as project leader for the European Crop Protection Association, addressing crop protection solutions by means of minor use registrations in specialty crops.
In the UK can be found Adrian Cunnington, head of Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research at AHDB Potatoes and another internationally renowned expert.
Cunnington, who studied for his BSc at Reading University, is a potato storage specialist and known for the research and development projects he has conducted, as well as his industry consultancy expertise.
And that is barely scratching the tip of the pile. Nevertheless, AHDB Potatoes plays a role in growing this pile, so to speak, through its highly rated ‘Next Generation’ initiative, allowing delegates to compete with the most talented and passionate individuals from across the UK’s potato supply chain.
The initiative serves to develop the future leaders of the UK potato industry through exposure to the whole supply chain.