Exciting evolution of the humble potato

They may still look like normal potatoes, but today’s spud is more sustainable and lower in carbs.    

Potato farmers standing in field with potatoes

Frank Mitolo, Group Managing Director of Mitolo Family Farms: “Sustainability underscores everything we do as a business”

Australia’s biggest grower of fresh potatoes* believes the humble spud is not just a much-loved food but a beacon of sustainability.

Frank Mitolo, Group Managing Director of Mitolo Family Farms, says his team is working hard to reduce its impact on the planet – from improved water efficiency to slashing its use of plastic packaging.

“Sustainability underscores everything we do as a business,” he says.

Based in the Adelaide Plains region of South Australia, Mitolo Family Farms supplies a range of produce to Coles, including Carisma, Gourmandine and Red Royale potatoes. Frank began learning the ropes from his father, Bruno, in his early teens. “We’re all about doing things in the best possible way,” he says.

Mitolo, which owns 20 farms in South Australia and New South Wales, has already dramatically cut its use of plastic by using thinner plastic bags, a move that has reduced the company’s annual plastic consumption by 60 tonnes.

“It’s been a big financial investment,” says Frank. “But I think it’s what consumers want – it’s important to be relevant. It’s also the right thing to do.”

Reducing the use of plastic packaging is just the beginning for Mitolo Family Farms; they have embarked on a full audit of the way they grow, harvest, process, package and transport their potatoes.

Frank, who works alongside brothers Darren and John in the business, believes there is much more that can be achieved – from planting faster-growing varieties to using better water filtration systems and introducing plastic packaging which is “kerbside-recyclable”.

“Potatoes are actually a pretty efficient crop,” he says. “But faster-growing varieties spend less time in the ground, use less energy, less fuel and less fertiliser. That’s where we can really make a difference.”

As part of its environmental audit Mitolo is examining every aspect of its potato-growing operation, with a particular focus on lowering water usage.

“We are looking at our water use and washing process and believe we can achieve savings through improved water filtration,” Frank says.

“The purpose of the audit is to establish where our baseline is at the moment for things like carbon and plastic waste. Once we have done that we can lay down some measurable KPIs [performance indicators] and then work towards them.”

Initiatives to adopt new technology, select new plant varieties and use less plastic packaging are all in line with a long-established sustainable ethos at Mitolo Family Farms.

“We have a third generation coming through with my son, Marco, so it makes sense for us to keep raising our sustainability ambitions.”

According to Frank, potatoes - a staple of the Aussie diet - experienced a consumer resurgence during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic as people sought out reassuring flavours and textures.

“Potatoes are a very comforting food,” he says. “During Covid we’ve seen a reawakening of that love affair with potatoes.”

But community expectations around climate change, plastic waste and sustainability are rapidly changing, and Frank believes that primary producers need to keep ahead of the curve.

“Australia once lagged behind the UK and Europe on these issues, but that is no longer the case,” he says. “Even over the past 12 months we’ve seen a huge shift in consumer attitudes about health and sustainability.”

The success of Mitolo Family Farms’ pre-packed Carisma potatoes, which contain 25 per cent fewer carbs than standard varieties, indicates that Australian consumers are searching the aisles with health in mind.

“People are not just looking for sustenance, but healthy, sustainable products grown here in Australia,” he says. “Demand for our lower-carb Carisma potatoes is still growing.”

 

And his favourite way to enjoy Carismas? “I slice them into steaks, boil them and then gently sauté them in a little butter. Delicious!”

From 1 June to 28 June 2022, 25c from the sale of each 2kg pack of Coles Australian Carisma Potatoes goes directly to the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. The foundation educates Aussie kids to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh produce, and develop positive food habits for life.

Mitolo Family Farms potatoes, including Carisma, Gourmandine, Red Royale, Royal Blue and White varieties, are available at Coles Supermarkets nationally* (*Mitolo does not supply Carisma potatoes to WA or Tasmania.)

https://www.stockjournal.com.au/story/7005576/potato-deal-strengthens-mitolo/*

 

Coles has an ambition to be Australia's most sustainable supermarket. We pride ourselves on working with farmers and producers who are committed to sustainable practices. Learn more here.