An important component of the comprehensively equipped quality control room at their potato store in Deeping St Nicholas, Lincolnshire is the 250 tuber capacity Hot Box. This is a vital tool in any potato production company, as the ability to achieve earlier detection of bruising, damage and disease means fewer storage losses and less production waste. This is clearly the case for Andrew who comments that “It has taken a lot of uncertainty and less definable criteria out of the equation. We’re more confident in what we’re selling”. The Hot Box shows bruising in just 12 hours by creating optimum conditions for bruise development, giving peace of mind that the crop is in the best condition it can be.
As with many other potato growers and processors, Andrew is achieving an optimum level of damage feedback by using the Hot Box in conjunction with the TuberLog Electronic Potato. As the TuberLog passes through potato handling machinery, areas of impact are detected and immediately transmitted by Bluetooth to the operator, showing where damage-causing areas are. Andrew uses the combined feedback of the Hot Box and TuberLog to change aspects of his process and has ultimately reduced his damage losses. “When we think we have a problem and need to investigate, it highlights if you’ve had something that has altered. It shows you where the roughest areas are in the process,” stated Andrew.
Also in the Branton quality control arsenal is the Weltech Digital Hydrometer which Andrew likes because, with many samples to check, it gives fast dry matter testing results with minimal handling: “It’s good. It’s quick and easy. You get an instant result with minimal faff”. In addition to dry matter percentage, the Weltech gives the added advantage of providing starch percentage and specific gravity readings, without the need for pre-test accurate sample weighing.
To add fry quality testing to the process, Andrew has purchased a chip cutter and a USDA chip colour chart which is mounted on the wall above the frying area. Both help in making an instant assessment of the fry colour of the potatoes and whether he is meeting customer contract requirements.
Whether used in conjunction or separately, this equipment offers bruise, damage and quality evaluation and ultimately reduction of financial losses due to waste. Having the complete range, as at W.D. Branton & Willow Tree Potatoes Ltd, provides a comprehensive picture and reduces any losses to a minimum.