Did you know that nearly 5,000 varieties of potatoes are being cultivated around the world, each of which comes under one of the eight or nine broader categories of taxonomic species?
Potatoes were originally cultivated in parts of modern South America and were brought into Europe by Spaniards who invaded the region in the second half of the 16th century. The popularity of this tuber increased widely across the continent and further into both eastern and western parts of the world. Around the world, this versatile vegetable is cooked and served in numerous ways and is also a key ingredient in some alcoholic beverages.
Presently a major non-grain food crop and the most widely cultivated tuber globally, potatoes often travel from one part of the world to another to claim their coveted spot on store shelves and dining tables. Nonetheless, how do traders, retailers and consumers know where these potatoes exactly come from? How can potato growers assure them of the produce’s quality and safety?
The quality of the potato and its nutritional value is determined not only by how it is produced, stored and handled by various actors along the supply chain, but also by the quality of seed potatoes used to cultivate them. Some of the finest varieties of seed potatoes in India originate from the state of Punjab. A state well-known for its high-quality seed potatoes, nearly 70% of its produce provides for the seed requirement of other potato-producing states including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka.
However, only less than 1% of all seed potatoes produced here are currently those certified by the Punjab Seed Certification Authority, which makes it extremely difficult for potato growers to differentiate genuine seeds from spurious ones. The sub-par seed potatoes sold in the name of Punjab-grown seed potato is also severely impacting the credibility and the brand value of the authentic, high-quality seeds.
With the aim to expand the certification process and include more seed potato growers, the Punjab Agri Export Corporation (PAGREXCO) has recently partnered with global agri-tech provider CropIn. This collaboration will enable them to leverage state-of-the-art AI-powered technology to enhance seed potato production in the state and further establish a first-of-its-kind ‘Seed Potato Traceability’ in the entire value chain.
CropIn’s advanced farm data management solution will empower farmers to capture several parameters through every stage of production and monitor them systematically to produce superior quality seed potatoes. The PAGREXCO field teams will configure the best package of practices for each seed variety on CropIn’s platform, and will also receive real-time intelligence about local weather, crop growth, crop health, potential pest infestations, and crop diseases. This will help seed-potato growers in Punjab to cultivate superior quality seeds and improve their efficiency. Finally, CropIn will also facilitate two-way communication between PAGREXCO and these farmers, allowing managers to share important plans, advisories, and instruction videos, and facilitate for farmers to have instant access to the PAGREXCO team.
Capturing farm data at critical points establishes end-to-end traceability to the life cycle of seeds. Following tests for quality assurance and certification by PAGREXO, unique QR codes are printed on each of the seed potato packets during the packaging and warehousing process. This will enable buyers to trace the origin of the seed potatoes and determine exactly where the seeds are coming from, how the seed potatoes were cultivated, and whether they are PAGREXCO-certified or not.
This traceability feature plays a vital role in curbing the sale of counterfeit, low-quality seeds under the name of Punjab-grown seed potatoes. It will also prevent the mixing of high-quality certified seeds with sub-par ones that result in low yields and poor ROI for potato growers. While on the one hand, it boosts credibility for PAGREXCO’s brand name and consequently promotes farmers’ trust in its products, it also enables farmers registered with PAGREXCO to fetch a premium price for their certified seeds on the other.
Punjab produces 27 lakh metric tonnes of potatoes every year, which means that ensuring high seed quality is absolutely critical. In fact, Punjab also caters to 60-70% of the entire seed potato demand in the Indian market. Hence, this partnership will not only impact the seed-potato farmers in Punjab, but also potato growers across India and in the international markets. We are excited about partnering with PAGREXCO and being able to improve outcomes at such a large scale.
Co-founder & COO of CropIn
CropIn’s solutions bring about a transformation in the seed production value chain by building technological efficiencies into the long and arduous agricultural life cycle.