HZPC CEO: “R&D Is Essential”
In my exclusive interview with Gerard Backx, HZPC CEO, we discussed several pressing matters for the seed industry, from the pandemic to robotization and the importance of research and development of resistant potato varieties, as well as the approach to corporate social responsibility. His views are reflected below.
What are your views on Industry 4.0, robotization and automation in the potato industry?
Robotization and automation will continue in any part of the potato industry, regardless whether this is research, growing, storage, transportation, processing, packing etc. etc.
What do you consider to be the main challenges for the potato industry at present, taking into account the pandemic?
It is the French fry industry that is hit very hard by the pandemic as percentage of their turnover. We see potato streams really changing due to less foodservice and more home consumption. Further, we are noticing more regional consumption, especially in countries where transport gets more difficult. So, think of Asia, Africa, South America etc. The main challenge will be that the final consumer can be reached, regardless the channel.
What solutions do you foresee to address these challenges?
It is important that governments make sure the food transports and distribution can be maintained in order to make sure all people will have access to sufficient and healthy food. HZPC has always delivered seed potatoes in all Middle-Eastern countries, for example. There was never a case where a government or war has stopped HZPC to deliver seed potatoes. I believe that everywhere a political solution can be found, in case people are hungry, because delivering seed potatoes helps to feed those countries.
Please discuss the most commonly encountered potato diseases and the HZPC solutions to eliminate or mitigate them.
The most common potato disease is Phytophthora. Breeders do breed for resistances. However, the disease does mutate quicker than breeders can adapt the varieties. Therefore, a one-gene solution for this disease is not the appropriate approach. It needs to be a double system for resistance and HZPC works on varieties with double resistances.
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