Arundel Kerr Produce’s (AKP) new facility at Brigg, in North Lincolnshire, which will store up to 7,500t of potatoes, was opened this week by Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board chairman John Godfrey.
Richard Arundel, AKP’s md, said the new facility would enable the company to meet increased demand from major retailers – including AKP’s main customer Morrisons which has packing and distribution facilities nearby – because they wanted to cut imports and reduce food miles.
He explained that the company’s 20-year-old existing facilities enabled it to store up to 18,000t of potatoes for processing but they were not suitable for pre-pack potatoes for the retail sector.
The new cold store would enable them to hold potatoes destined for the retail market. He said: “We are in an area that is historically very good for growing potatoes but has been short of the right kind of cold storage and infrastructure to keep the right quality for the long term. This will encourage local growers to produce the quality of potatoes required for the retail sector.
“We need to supply potatoes 52 weeks a year and until now we haven’t been able to do that with local potatoes and we’ve had to bring in potatoes from outside. With this new facility we hope we will be able to last right through to the next harvest.”
The new grading line will increase capacity and improve the quality of handling, and will be used to grade potatoes on the site, increasing demand from AKP’s other customers including McCain and Lamb Weston.
Arundel added: “The new facility will not only enable us to meet the demand of our biggest customers, but we’ve also successfully improved the quality and freshness of our potatoes by reducing transportation, handling and using the latest cold store technologies.
“We’ve even reduced our carbon footprint through minimising haulage and using an energy efficient and environmentally sustainable production and storage system.”
The investment in the business has led to the creation of four full-time and eight part-time jobs across the business from growing potatoes and quality control operatives to a new driver.
AKP won a grant covering 35% of the cost of the development from the Rural Development Programme for England in 2009. But Arundel said it had been a tough battle to secure the rest of the funding from banks, even with the support of its biggest customer, Morrisons.
AKP was established in 1999 as a potato marketing business to market the potato production of five large-scale potato growing businesses in the UK.
Since then, the business has expanded and now markets and handles more than 75,000t a year, 43,000t of which is supplied to Morrisons.