The world’s largest producer of frozen potato products, McCain Foods has announced its plans for a second Farms of the Future in South Africa, as part of its drive to cut carbon emissions and tackle the impacts of climate change. This follows the announcement of the first Farm of the Future location in Canada last year. 

McCain plans to open three Farms of the Future in different growing regions around the world by 2025. It is all part of a global commitment to implement regenerative agriculture across 100 per cent of its potato acreage by 2030. 

Mark Du Plessis, director of agriculture at McCain South Africa, says the project will kick off on July 1, with the first potato crop expected to be planted in August.

McCain has identified two South African locations totalling 465 ha irrigation and 90 ha dryland on which McCain will grow 125 ha potatoes for use across the country, per year. The farm will focus on enhancing productivity, while prioritising soil health, water efficiency, the reduction of agro-chemical impacts and the introduction and preservation of biodiversity. 

According to Du Plessis, the regenerative agricultural farm, which will operate as an ecosystem, will primarily cultivate potatoes on a four-year sequence involving the rotation of potatoes, radish, winter crop mixes, maize, soybeans and wheat. This will rid the soil of transmittable diseases and will encourage farmers to avoid using chemicals that are harmful to the environment.

“We’ve got a good base of knowledge and experience in terms of the feasibility, and that makes this project a good start for us in South Africa,” adds Du Plessis.

At Farm of the Future Africa, the potential to grow multiple crops per year, innovate with irrigation technology in a water-scarce region as well as the challenges arising from the presence of soil-borne pests and diseases make it the ideal location for transferring learning to other parts of the world, including China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. 

All of the potatoes grown on Farm of the Future Africa will be made into French fries and other frozen potato products, servicing consumers across Africa. 

Farm of the Future Canada in Florenceville, New Brunswick has already seen strong yields after just one year in operation, and fertilizer application at the site is already down by more than 16 per cent compared to typical McCain growers in the area. 

The reduction is mainly in nitrogen and phosphorous, a cut that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 2 per cent compared to grower historical average. 

McCain CEO Max Koeune said the Farms of the Future project is vital in trying to make the global food system more sustainable: “This is a critical moment. The strain that global supply chains are under right now is shining a stark light on how exposed we are, with a food system that requires a radical transformation to address the challenges of our century.”

“If we don’t change the way we farm, feeding the world in 30 years will require an 87 per cent increase in carbon emissions. The implications of that are bleak – and we cannot allow it to happen. 

“Farmers are on the front line here – they see the impacts every day, with extreme weather wreaking havoc on the growing season. Working collaboratively, we believe this transformation will ensure both McCain and our farmers will have a business for generations to come.” 

Charlie Angelakos, Vice President, Global External Affairs and Sustainability at McCain Foods, said: “The potential of the Farms of the Future project is enormous. It allows us to test and learn in different climates and geographies and to discover how best to leverage rapidly developing technology and agricultural practices – all in close collaboration with farmers to ensure it is economically viable and scalable for them.”