A crop forecasting tool that helps retailers to more accurately plan promotions on fresh potatoes and maximise sales is being taken online in a bid to encourage wider industry use.
The system analyses weather data, potato leaf cover and samples of potatoes dug up in the field to forecast crop yields and pinpoint the best time to harvest to maximise the commercial value of the crop.
Plant science specialist NIAB claims the tool, developed over the past decade, can help retailers plan their promotions more effectively by providing them with more precise estimates on crop volume and potato size.
NIAB is now looking to increase take-up by moving it onto a web-based platform. “It’s got to that point where it’s moved out of being mainly a research tool to one that’s being recognised as of commercial value,” said David Firman, head of the NIAB potato agronomy group.
The tool would be particularly helpful during periods of extreme wet weather, such as in 2012, when UK potato crops were decimated, he added. “If it had been more widely used then it would have been helpful to many parts of the supply chain,” said Firman.
The tool could also analyse the use of crop resources, such as irrigation and fertilisation, to identify whether they were being deployed efficiently and whether any improvements could be made, he added.
Typically, potato suppliers rely on field samples to forecast forthcoming yields but using sampling alone can result in forecasting errors because the sample may not accurately reflect the state of the entire crop.
Last week, NIAB scooped £10,000 when the tool won the Oxford Farming Conference and Royal Agricultural Society of England Practice with Science Award. It will spend it on further development.