The research project iPot was launched in June 2014. Together with three partners, VITO created a system for the Belgian potato sector to monitor the growth of potatoes.

In 2017, the commercial version of this webtool will be marketed under the name Watch iT Grow. IPot is an initiative of VITO in collaboration with Belgapom (the professional association of the Belgian potato industry), CRA-W (the Walloon Agricultural Research Centre in Gembloux) and the University of Liège. Isabelle Piccard of VITO: “We are developing a web application that helps potato traders and the processing industry to monitor the growth of the potatoes. By using weather data, satellite images, aerial images (taken with drones) and data from ground measurements, users are able to follow whether the crops emerge properly from the ground, how the growth is developing, whether diseases might be present, when farmers can start harvesting. The University of Liège combines the collected data into crop growth models. Using this, the webtool is able to predict the expected yield per plot.”


Sustainably increasing potato production

Belgium is the largest exporter of frozen potato products in the world. Romain Cools of Belgapom: “Each year, Belgian companies process four million tonnes of potatoes into French fries, potato chips and other products. To continue to grow, we need more potatoes. But expansion of agricultural land is not an option. Using Watch iT Grow, we are better able to monitor potato production and increase yields. This allows us to ensure and further expand our role as a global player in the potato industry.” The iPot project ends in May 2017. What started as a research project, funded by the Federal Public Planning Service for Science Policy (BELSPO), has grown into an innovative webtool. From the spring of 2017, not only the academic world but also industry and farmers will be able to use the tool.

Romain Cools: “The tool helps farmers optimise their available surface area, so they can continue to grow in a sustainable way. We are strengthening the Belgian economy and ensuring that Belgium remains the largest exporter of frozen potato products.”

The commercial webtool will be called Watch iT Grow. “The application will be provided free of charge during the first year,” says Isabelle Piccard. “Users can continue to rely on expert support. In the future it will also be possible to monitor crops other than potatoes.”

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