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25th February 2021  Content supplied by: Meade Farm

Irish Potato Company Enters Starch Commodity Market


Irish potato grower and packer Meade Farm (recently rebranded from Meade Potato Company) has entered the starch commodity market by extracting starch from surplus potatoes and potato processing by-products.  

The extraction unit at the Meade Farm in Lobinstown, Co. Meath represents the only food-grade starch being indigenously produced and sold in Ireland and the UK.  Meade Farm believes their starch will help to reduce food waste, add higher value to the national potato crop, increase import substitution and create new export opportunities. 

A testament to the versatility of the potato, its starch is a common ingredient used in food manufacturing for binding and thickening.  Year on year growth in the starch market is at 9% for the past six years due to its increased use in sustainable packaging, meat-free and sugar-free foodstuffs.

The potato starch market has grown by 11% since last year.  This type of starch is appealing to manufacturers because it is gluten-free, has a higher viscosity than corn starch and is odourless and flavourless.

In 1996, the Meade family were the first to export potatoes by the boatload to Europe for the starch manufacturers abroad.  They have continued to export over the past 20 years but have focused on their core business of supplying potatoes, fruit and vegetables to the retail market.  Their latest venture into starch manufacturing represents a commitment to diversification, innovation and sustainability.

“Since my father first started in the potato business over 40 years ago, we have been looking for new markets and trying to add higher value to the potato crop.  Our entrance into the starch market is a natural evolution of our business – going from exporting potatoes for overseas starch production, installing potato peeling and processing lines and now re-investing in a starch extraction unit at our farm.  We hope it will boost the potato market and offer food manufacturers a local, premium quality alternative for starch,” explains Philip Meade Jr. Commercial Director of Meade Farm.

They have already started to export to the UK and hope to expand into other export markets in the next two years.  “Our credentials as an Irish company that is strong on sustainability and part of the Origin Green accreditation programme is already helping us open doors abroad,” explains Cliona Costello, R&D Manager at Meade’s. “What seals the deal though is that it is an excellent product.”

The enterprise has added ten direct jobs and 50 indirect jobs to a rural area in the Boyne Valley.  The plant will be powered by a wind turbine and 300kw of solar panels which should render the plant’s energy operations carbon neutral.  It is estimated that within the next two years, transport carbon emissions of starch into Ireland will be reduced by 90 tonnes based on Meade’s sales projections.  

“Initiatives like this one that link innovation to sustainability are core to our family farm business; they tick all the boxes of filling a major gap in the market with a smart solution driven by the circular economy,” adds Eleanor Meade, Business Operations Manager.  

It takes a potato one hour and a journey through approx. 300 metres of machinery before it is turned into starch.  It can take from seven to eight tonnes of potatoes to make one tonne of starch depending on the dry matter content, variety and time of the year.  

Along the way, the potato undergoes 22 stages before it is turned into pure food-grade starch.  The rasping stage uses 102 knives going 2500 revolutions per minute and the gas burner reaches 180°.

Research is currently being undertaken to use Meade potato starch in the manufacture of compostable packaging.


    

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Date Published: 25th February 2021

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