Potato growers urged to improve store efficiency this season

Rising energy costs and the need to dry tubers during this wet season should prompt potato growers to improve their store efficiency, Andrew Kneeshaw of the Farm Energy Centre has claimed.

Kneeshaw suggested growers can do this by:

- checking insulation levels in stores and rectifying any air leaks;

- using a directional thermometer or hiring a thermal imaging camera to check for "weak spots" such as metal stanchions and roof ridges;

- ensuring any insulation is correctly fitted.

He said: "Spray-foam insulation on the inside of stores may not look especially pretty, but is extremely effective in filling any gaps and providing a very efficient heat seal."

Kneeshaw also advised growers to look to increase the efficiency of existing refrigeration units by cleaning fans and cooling systems before filling stores. In the longer term, fitting variable-speed drives could help to match equipment operation to the desired effect in-store more effectively.

A 20 per cent slow-down in fan speed can, for example, generate a 50 per cent energy saving, he said.

For those growers who have not already fixed their electricity costs, which are typically running at around 13p kW/h for daytime use and 7p kW/h at night, Kneeshaw suggested prices will fall over the coming months and better deals for long-term contracts may be available by mid-2009.

- Further information and tips on energy efficiency can be found at the Potato Council's energy hub website: www.potato.org.uk/department/knowledge_transfer/energy/index.html.


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