Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Picking up pointers

An opportunity to explore the potato chip industry in Singapore and the United States has not only enlightened Raymond and Adrianne Bowan to the challenges and opportunities abroad, but also reaffirmed the success of their business home in New Zealand. As winners of the 2011 Lincoln University Foundation South Island Farmer of the Year, Raymond and Adrianne received a $15,000 travel grant. “We wanted to utilise the award to reflect our farming business as well as our new factory business,” Adrianne said. “In the finish we visited Asia and the United States and the knowledge we brought back will help us progress both businesses.”

The Bowans farm 1214ha in Orari and 197ha at Coldstream on the north bank of the Rangitata River. With 95% of their farm irrigated, they grow potatoes, cereals, barley, maize and grass seeds, and winter dairy cows.

In 2009 they bought a factory and established Heartland Potato Chips, which have quickly become popular on New Zealand supermarket shelves.

In Singapore, the Bowans visited supermarkets to get a feel for the local trade and met supermarket sales teams.

“While we have decided not to look at the export market for now, so we can concentrate on managing the growth in our New Zealand sales, the experience was invaluable and something we can store up for the future.”

In the US, they looked at potato farming, machinery, spraying programmes and irrigation at Presque Isle in Maine, also visiting a large grower of potatoes, onions and carrots.

Raymond said American potato growers operated under a short growing season and tight water restrictions.

“When we were there it was a real drought. We’re pretty fortunate we’re not in that position. Canterbury’s pretty reliable with water.”

They picked up plenty of pointers, particularly around storage, but were not planning any major changes as a result.

“It probably confirmed that what we’re doing is right.”

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