Photos from the organic starch potato harvest and campaign in Latvia

The other week I visited Latvia in order to see organic starch potato harvest and the starch production process at Aloja Starkelsen. You can find my earlier posts last year about the harvest in Finland and the production process at Finnamyl. My purpose was to see and photograph the harvest in Ledurga at Zigmars Logins’ Ozolini ZL organic farm (earlier photograph of his potato field here). However the harvest was postponed to following week as they were still preparing their two 3-row harvesting machines and emptying the warehouse of the organic oats they had harvested a few weeks earlier. Zigmars is Aloja Starkelsen’s biggest organic potato farmer with 55 hectares of organic starch potato. In total he is farming 400 hectares organically. Apart from potatoes his crop rotation includes grain and red-clover.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

The 3-row harvesting machine being prepared for action.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

Ozolini ZL organic farm in Ladurga.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

The potato stems have been cut and the potatoes are waiting for the harvesters.

Aloja Starkelsen has 29 contract farmers for organic starch potato. Apart from a few big farms like Zigmars’ they are smaller farms with just a few hectares of potatoes.  One of these is the Segrumi dairy farm just 15 km from the factory. I visit the farm together with Aloja Starkelsen’s agronomist Aiga Kraukle. Segrumi has just 2 hectares of potatoes which they were harvesting. Naturally investment in machinery has to be lower when production is smaller. The old Finnish-manufactured Juko one-rowed potato harvester is pulled by an equally old Belarus tractor. Two men need to work the harvester to ensure that the potatoes flow well into the container. Yield is expected to be almost 20 tons per hectare and the starch content is  high this year. We also make a short visit to the farm where the dairy cows are on the pasture. The 2 hectares of potatoes brings the farm an important extra income.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

The farm has an old Finnish-manufactured Juko harvester.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

The Segrumi farm is a small dairy farm.

Aiga also shows me around the Aloja factory. Previously I had not visited the factory during the campaign so it is interesting to see the factory in action. Of course the process is the same as at Finnamyl so it all looks familiar. On the Friday I visited the factory the production was conventional. The first organic production will be on Monday 16th September. Finnamyl processed its first organic starch this year on 12th September. We expect normal to good yields in both countries so the outlook for this year is good.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

Potatoes must be carefully washed before going further in the process.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

The starch is washed on the belt filter.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

Aiga Kraukle and the potato starch coming off the vacuum filter. After this it is still dried and packed.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

Organic potato starch in the warehouse.

So the organic potato starch harvest and the campaign has started for this year!

 

Organic starch potatoes grown in Estonia and Latvia

In early July on the way to the 7th Ifoam Conference in Vilnius we took the opportunity to visit a few organic farms. First in Estonia close to Rapla we visited the farmer Tõnu Kriisa who produces mainly organic beef on 300 hectares but has also a few hectares of  potatoes. He has a small contract with Aloja Starkelsen for starch potatoes – he is one of two Estonian organic farmers producing organic starch potato for Aloja. Tõnu Kriisa is a pioneer of organic farming in Estonia – actually I have met him the first time a long time ago in late 1980’s when he was studying biodynamic farming in Finland.

 

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

Tonu Kriisa proudly showing his organic potato field.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

Potato blooming at Tonu Kriisa farm.

In Latvia we stopped at Aloja Starkelse and joined the organic farm excursion that was arranged for the board members of the Swedish Lyckeby-Culinar – mostly farmers themselves. Our first visit was to Sigmars Logins in Krimuldas. He has 470 hectares organic cultivation of which 47 hectares organic starch potato for Aloja Starkelsen. On the field we visited he is cultivating the “Kuras” variety which has a good resistance against blight. He expects to get 17-21 tons per hectare harvest.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

Organic farmer Sigmars Logins and Aloja Starkelse Ltd’s agronomist Aiga Kraukle at Sigmars’ starch potato field.

 

Our second visit was to Andrejs Hansons and his vermicompost facility where California red worms transform potato pulp and other organic material into compost. The vermicompost is supposed to have a stimulating effect on soil microbiology and it is also hoped that it could to some extent build the plants resistance towards potato late blight. According to Andrejs Hansons just postponing late blight for 1-2 weeks would have great value in terms of starch yield. Andrejs who is the former managing director of Aloja Starkelesen, is also a producer of organic starch potatoes. We visit his fields where there are also impressive field tests for different varieties of starch potatoes and fertilizers including the vermicompost.

 

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

Vermicomposting at Ekotri Ltd.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

“California red worm” or red worm, Eisenia fetida, is adapted to decaying organic material.

 

Slideshow of the photos from Estonia visits:

 

Slideshow of the photos from Latvia visits:

 

More information at organicpotatostarch.com