Irish potato grower and packer 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 native food grade starch being indigenously produced for food manufacturers in Ireland and the UK.
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.
Meade Potato Company believe their starch will appeal to food manufacturers as it is gluten-free and has a higher viscosity than corn starch. They hope it will help to reduce food waste, add higher value to the national potato crop, increase import substitution and create new export opportunities.
In 1996, Meade Potato Company was the first Irish company 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.
Philip Meade Jr. Commercial Director of Meade Potato Company:
"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 local alternative for starch."
They have already started to export to the UK and hope to expand into other export markets in the next two years.
Cliona Costello, Paul Monaghan, Philip Meade Jr. & Robert Devlin of Meade Potato Company at the launch of the company's starch extraction unit.
Cliona Costello, R&D Manager at Meade’s:
"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. 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 initially be part-powered by a wind turbine, with planning in place for 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.
Eleanor Meade, Business Operations Manager:
"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."
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°.
They are currently exploring the possibility of modifying their starch so it can be used in the manufacture of compostable packaging. They were the first Irish company to introduce 100% compostable pillow pack potato packaging.
Their innovative bag Meade 2kg White Potatoes uses a cornstarch-based bioplastic coated paper and cornstarch-based mesh. They will be releasing a 100% home compostable range of packaging for their produce in the new year.
In the new year the company will be changing their consumer facing branding to Meade Farm and their business to business brand will be Meade Farm Group to more accurately represent their diverse agribusiness offering.