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International Potato Technology Expo organizers expect 5,000 visitors to P.E.I. event



Since the International Potato Technology Expo launched in 2000, Glen MacLean, a 700-acre seed potato farmer in O’Leary, hasn’t missed a show.

“To meet the people that you deal with and see the new technology,” said MacLean of MacLean Farms Ltd. on Friday.

“We try to keep up as much as we can. We use GPS and modern tractors ... anything modern that we can afford.”

MacLean said it’s hard to believe how technology has changed farming over the years.

“When I started farming, we were planting two rows at a time with an open tractor,” he said.  

“The technology they have now with computers is pretty substantial.”

Mark Cusack, the event’s national show manager, said the expo is held every two years in Charlottetown. This year, the two-day show that began on Friday is being held at the Eastlink Centre.

Cusack estimates the event will have about 5,000 visitors and 130 exhibitors over the two days.

“Some of these exhibitors have been here for 18 years,” Cusack said.

“It’s become the big event for Canada. And, everyone knows if you’re going to sell potatoes, you have to go to P.E.I.”  

“Some of these exhibitors have been here for 18 years. It’s become the big event for Canada. And, everyone knows if you’re going to sell potatoes, you have to go to P.E.I.” 
-Mark Cusack

Besides the exhibitors, a conference with speakers was held at the Red Shores Racetrack and Casino.

Francis Desaulniers of the Quebec-based Hortau, an irrigation management systems company, was one of the exhibitors. This was the first year the company had a booth at the show. Its main product monitors soil moisture so farmers can tell when it is time to irrigate their fields. A sensor is inserted in the soil, and data is collected by a solar-powered monitoring station that relays information to the farmer on a website or through an app on a smartphone.

The company has a couple of customers on the Island and elsewhere in the Maritimes. Quebec is the main customer as well as Ontario and British Columbia.

One exhibitor that drew a lot of interest from the crowd was the company Newtec, which is from Denmark, and the optical grader Celox-P-UHD it had on display.

The machine uses high resolution cameras to analyze, grade and sort washed potatoes for size, shape and quality (such as surface scabs). Potatoes can be sorted into 13 categories.

“We can really see the small details in potatoes,” said Thomas Heinicke, the company’s head of sales, explaining the cameras photograph the potatoes multiple times and allow the user to evaluate the potato’s surface “pixel by pixel.”

The user can operate the machine and change settings from a computerized display screen or on an external computer or smartphone. The company has sales in Canada and all over the world.

“It is, really, a machine where you put in all your potatoes, no matter what shape they’re in, and then you can decide how to split them and utilize every single potato,” Heinicke said.

“It won’t brew your coffee for you in the morning, but otherwise, it will do quite a bit for you.”

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