Robbie Davis, as South Australian Rural Woman of 2016, looked at cutting potato waste

2016 South Australian Rural Woman of the Year, Robbie Davis (inset), has researched the possibilities for reducing potato waste.
Image courtesy Robbie Davis

Robbie Davis's project to reduce food waste in agriculture saw her named 2016 South Australian Rural Woman of the Year. As chief executive of Potatoes South Australia, Davis was on a particular mission to save misshapen potatoes from ending up as cattle feed.

Every year, South Australian potato growers, in the biggest potato-producing region in Australia, rejecting thousands of tonnes of the unwanted tubers. A mindset had been created among consumers and growers by supermarkets that good potatoes had to have perfect skin, shape and size. This created “enormous waste”.

South Australian growers produce about 385,000 tonnes of potatoes annually but an estimated extra 20-40% went into stock feed or was dug back into the ground. That represented about $30 million wastage.

Potatoes South Australia has worked with the University of Adelaide on identifying technologies that could lead to more profitable alternatives. Treatments to extend the shelf life of potatoes is among possibilities. Another is pureed potato product suitable for infants and older people, with Australian hospitals and nursing homes are importing desiccated potato from Europe and New Zealand. A $10,000 bursary from 2016 SA Rural Woman of the Year awards sponsor Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation supported Davis’s research into other value-added options.

Davis has a bachelor of agricultural science and master of business administration from University of Adelaide, she is also a farmer near Meningie in South Australia's upper south east. Davis also has lived and worked in South East Asia where she gained significant experience in global markets before setting up her own agribusiness consultancy. She became a non-executive director of Fight Food Waste cooperative research centre started in 2018 at University of Adelaide’s Waite campus.

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