Wageningen UR's experimental farm in Westmaas is going to profile itself as the Wageningen Potato Centre. Increasingly, manager Marcel Tramper and teamleader Thie Arend Brouwer are exchanging ideas with the business world and with Wageningen potato researchers.
And this leads to new research assignments. Two years ago Tramper discussed the quality of potato skins with a producer and buyer. 'That led to a test aiming to improve the quality of the skin. That has now succeeded and the result has already been introduced in the sector.'
A second example is the further development at the research centre of band fertilization techniques with which fertilizer is targeted at the potato tuber. The centre has worked on the technique together with a company that has developed a machine for it. 'We are doing research on this and the new approach is being tried out for a year at the research centre. This helps to make this form of precision farming better known. Bringing practitioners and researchers together brings about new things.'
This 'bridge function' is something Tramper wants to develop further and to formalize. Companies can become 'members' or 'partners' of the Wageningen Potato Centre. Members pay 125 euros per year and are kept in touch with developments in potato research via a newsletter. Partners pay 1,750 euros. They visit regularly for consultations and can make use of the facilities on the experimental farm. Meanwhile, WPC has twelve members and eight partners.
Among the partners are HZPC, a big seed potato supplier, a pesticide manufacture, a French fries manufacturer, a nursery, a potato buyer and a sector magazine. 'We want to build it up slowly.' Tramper's aim is to have twenty partners in two years' time.
Meanwhile, Tramper's colleague Thie Arend Brouwer has made his way to Wageningen to strengthen contacts with potato researchers. Brouwer is also paying a visit to the library to ensure that the partners of Westmaas get access to research information. 'For example, in the greenhouse horticulture sector a new method was recently developed of identifying the potato disease Phytophthora quickly, before it is even visible on the leaves', says Tramper. 'My partners probably don't know about that.' So Tramper is inviting Wageningen researchers to provide knowledge for the potato sector.