It is over twenty years now since Andrew Skea started Skea Organics and registered as an organic seed potato supplier. Skea Organics is now a highly recognised name in the potato industry, supplying to many larger organisations and seed sellers. Skea Organics is the lead supplier of organic seed potatoes to farmers throughout UK and Europe and further afield.
Potato House is the baby potato of Skea Organics, and grew out of a need to service smaller orders for gardeners, allotment growers, market gardeners and independent gardening and hardware stores. We also supply ware (eating or table) potatoes to shops, box schemes and restaurants. The Potato House website is dedicated to the gardeners and small passionate growers who are looking for high-quality seed potatoes with unique taste and specific characteristics.
In 2010 we decided to extend our variety list of heritage and speciality seed potato varieties which have long histories and exclusive characteristics. We have developed a specialist niche in growing and supplying a wide selection of top quality heritage and speciality seed potatoes.
It takes a lot of planning and paperwork to grow so many varieties from keeping them separate at planting, drawing field maps and harvesting through to storage and packaging. We think the end result is worth it though.
Around a third of our varieties are organic, although by volume, our organic range is about 80% of our harvest. Our website clearly shows what is organic and what is not, as does our labelling and invoicing.
Andrew’s brother John, who farms at the farm the family have been at since 1973 at Auchterhouse, grows most of our produce but we also have a few other farmers who grow for us. In addition to seed potatoes, the family farm produces organic cattle, sheep, cereals and vegetables.
We are proud to be at the forefront of our industry providing high-quality disease-free seed potatoes. Our Organic Certification, Safe Haven, SOPA and BPTA certificates provide reassurances to our consumers and our large scale customers alike. Our crops are inspected several times during the season for diseases and the top quality seed potatoes we supply to our customers is a result of years of dedication
- The Safe Haven Certification Scheme presently covers 60% of all seed production in Great Britain. It was set up by the British seed industry in 2004 to provide additional protection for the British potato industry and its customers from bacterial ring rot. The scheme comprises scientifically robust protocols that ensure best practice for seed growing and handling and require businesses who are members of the scheme to be audited annually to ensure compliance. The Safe Haven Certification Scheme is supported by Red Tractor and Assured Food Standards.
- The Safe Haven scheme can also help protect against any pest or disease that can be imported or introduced by seed. This includes other bacterial diseases like brown rot or Dickeya spp. and soil borne pests like root knot nematode.
- The Safe Haven Certification Scheme is designed to reduce the risk of outbreaks of ring rot and other bacterial diseases of potatoes through a series of standards covering all the potential infection points. The 'ring fence' that the scheme provides ensures that all seed within the scheme is only grown from Safe Haven-sourced seed or disease-free nuclear stock and this helps protect against any pests and diseases not found in Britain which affect potatoes.
- All of our seed potatoes are certified “Safe Haven”. All our customers can therefore be assured of first class quality seed potatoes for their gardens and allotments.
Why is Scotland renowned for producing the best Seed Potatoes?
The maritime summer climate is cooler than many other potato growing regions allowing crops to thrive at a significantly lower risk of viral disease. These diseases are spread by aphids. Aphids are the small insects which transport the spores of viral diseases throughout potato crops, allowing infection to spread easily. The naturally cooler climate of Scotland, not only in summer months but also during the winter months of January and February, reduces and postpones the development of aphids.
Skea Organics is a partner in GPS potato breeding consortium aiming to breed better potato varieties – including with improved resistance to Potato Cyst Nemato. We also have our own Potato Breeding programmes looking for improved varieties for the Organic Sector – where blight resistance and PCN resistance are top priorities.
We are always after new varieties. Within our breeding programme we try to find new varieties not only for the commercial market but also interesting for small gardeners and allotment growers. Our main aim is focused to blight resistant and tasteful varieties. Andrew’s grandfather was involved in seed potatoes from around the 1950s and so potatoes are in the blood! We are breeding new varieties and our hope is to get a great blight-resistant variety which is good looking and tasty! So far our only registered variety is Mary’s Rose, but we have a wave of new red and blue fleshed varieties in the pipeline as well as more disease resistant white and cream fleshed varieties.
Breeding is a fascinating but time-consuming activity. Most of our breeding is done in association with the James Hutton Institute in Dundee – they hand pollinate each plant so we know what has been x with what. We will start with 1000s of seedlings in trials whittling them down each growing season until we select one or two individuals to put through registration. In equal measures, we are looking for a tasty, good looking variety which has a high resistance to diseases and good yield coupled with the “type” that UK consumers enjoy! Eg. Our European cousins prefer more yellow flesh. It is equivalent of buying 20,000 lottery tickets hoping your number will come up in 10 years time. We have further articles in our news page.
Our Main Team is, of course, our Potatoes!
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