360-icon download left-arrow left-doublearrow nav-dot pdf-icon rss-icon search-icon spot-icon subnavi-icon close-icon info-icon

One day too late in spring is one day less for the potatoes to grow in autumn.

CP Farms, Canada Barnwell - Fendt 512, 720, 828,
936, 1050 Vario

One day too late in spring is one day less for the potatoes to grow in autumn.


In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, that's literally what it's all about. Every year, the Camps family produces more than 27,000 tonnes of potatoes on their farm, CP Farms. In the heart of the Canadian province of Alberta, Michel and Hanneke Camps manage over 1,400 hectares of land.

"We can make a lot of fries out of one hectare. We harvest an average of 52 tonnes of potatoes per hectare, which is about 27,500 portions of fries. We grow potatoes on 530 of the 1,400 hectares. So, we produce over 12 million portions of fries every year," explains farmer Michel Camps. Up to 24,000 tonnes of potatoes can be stored in the Camps family's ventilated potato warehouses. And storage is necessary. Processing plants need potatoes all year round, but they can't store them themselves. So CP Farms handles the storage and regular delivery.

Golf ball or potato?

Before storage, Michel, Hanne ke and their employees sort the potatoes by hand. Every day, at least six loads run over a conveyor belt. One load carries 30 tonnes of potatoes, i.e. a total of 180 tonnes per day. Sorting the potatoes takes time, but is necessary work as the sorting machines fail to recognise some foreign object in the load. Golf balls are particularly common in the fields near the city and they are not picked up, because they have the same density as potatoes. "There are a lot of bad golfers here in southern Alberta," jokes Michel Camps. Michel and Hanneke Camps met at a poultry farm in their home country, the Netherlands. "You get chased and scratched by chickens and are left tired and stinking afterwards. It's not very romantic," Michel Camps jokes about the conditions. "And anyway, Hanneke was much better at it than I was. That bothered me, but I knew she was a keeper." In their home country, the conditions for young farmers were not ideal, with land scarce and, above all, expensive. In 2002, the two ventured abroad. "All of a sudden we were in the potato business, and it turned out to be a complete success," says Michel. The soil in the Camps' fields consists of sand and clay – perfect for potatoes. And the economic conditions in southern Alberta are ideal for potato cultivation, because in the 1990s three large potato processing plants were built within a 160-km radius. They turn the potatoes into fries to ship from the Rocky Mountains all over the world.

It's never easy at the start

"We didn't have a lot of money at the beginning, just two pairs of hands and willpower," says Hanneke Camps. Over the last 20 years, the couple has multiplied the area of their farmland tenfold, from 140 hectares to 1,400 hectares. And it's not just the size of their business that has changed, but also the business model. Rising costs on the farm and falling consumer prices have forced the Camps to have a rethink. To keep operating costs as low as possible, Michel and Hanneke looked to technology and innovation. The pair exchanged ideas with other farmers and found new ways to offset input costs with innovative methods. This led Michel Camps to develop the equipment he already had himself. With his self-made hookup, he saves money and, above all, time when laying his seed potatoes. But Smart Farming solutions like Fendt VariableRateControl (VRC) also help the company to save costs.

Loosening, laying, fertilising – in a single step

The Fendt 1050 Vario, which was purchased in spring 2018, tows the innovative hookup through the fields. After some tinkering, Michel managed to connect two attachments so that tilling and potato planting can take place in one operation. For this purpose, he has installed a tooth packer roller with a dam-digging machine behind the tractor, which loosens the soil and forms dams at the same time. By his own design, the potato laying machine was attached behind the tooth packer roller. The self-build has a protective pipe housing the hydraulic lines, camera and electronics cables and the fertiliser supply line. Two 1,700-litre barrels of liquid fertiliser are mounted on a tyre packer at the front of the tractor. The fertiliser is fed directly to the nozzles of the planter through the specially laid pipe. This means the hookup can prepare the soil, lay the potatoes and fertilise them in the same run. The high performance of the Fendt 1050 Vario is invaluable, as the dam-digging machine alone requires 350 hp of power. Michel particularly likes the fact that the machine supports the cross-manufacturer function ISOBUS and that all the Fendt 1050 Vario features can be programmed on the terminal. "Once we've worked on the field, that's it, we're done," he says. "Before we merged the operations, soil preparation and planting were two different steps. Now they're connected, we've saved an enormous amount of time and, above all, money." Michel Camps saves $17.50 per hectare – with 530 hectares of potatoes to process, it's worth it.

365 days in use

The Fendt 1050 Vario is the most powerful tractor in the Camps family and is characterised by its versatility. It can be used 365 days a year, with enough power for heavy traction work and extreme manoeuvrability for lighter work. "Transport is a good example of this," says Michel. "The Fendt 1050 Vario is fitted with a compressed air system and runs smoothly in transport pulling loads of up to 35 tonnes – at impressive speeds of 50 km/h. This is an added advantage when you have fields that are spread far and wide like ours." Michel also likes the TMS (Tractor Management System). "The tractor determines the engine speed and the gearbox setting. With this, the tractor always drives as efficiently as possible and saves fuel."

The earlier you plant, the better the harvest

In the harvest everything has to run without a hitch. The decisive factor for this is when you sow. "We always say: one day too late in spring is one day less for the potatoes to grow in autumn. That's why we try to plant as early as possible, when the soil is warm and dry enough, and finish the potato harvest by October 10th. That's usually early enough to prevent frost damage," says the farmer. In this part of the world, however, snow can fall again in spring and planting has to wait. "The weather is the only thing we can't calculate and it's my biggest worry," says Michel Camps. As well as potatoes, sugar beet, maize, wheat and alfalfa are grown on the farm. Five Fendt tractors are in use to ensure that everything runs smoothly from sowing to harvesting. Every tractor has very specific tasks. The Fendt 828 Vario also pulls a potato planter, while the Fendt 936 Vario prepares the fields for the upcoming season with a short-disc harrow. After planting, the Fendt 720 Vario shovels the dams and the 700 is used for sowing wheat and harvesting sugar beet. The Fendt 512 Vario is the smallest of the Camps family's herd. It runs about when the wheat, sugar beet and maize are sowed. In the autumn, the machine also pulls a beet harvester.

Soil cultivation in alberta

In the Alberta region, large articulated machines or tracked tractors are typically used for soil cultivation. These machines are very suitable for heavy traction work, but are not great for Row Crop use or transport.