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Porridge maker sows oats under camera's watchful gaze

By Margaret Canning

Published 27/05/2015

Crumlin farmer Mark Wilson with Gary Hillman, agronomist at White’s Oats, with a camera for monitoring the growth of oats
Crumlin farmer Mark Wilson with Gary Hillman, agronomist at White’s Oats, with a camera for monitoring the growth of oats

Porridge maker White's is bringing the phrase 'knowing your oats' to new levels by using a time-lapse camera to closely monitor growth on a supplier farm.

The Tandragee-based oat miller and cereal producer, which produces traditional and instant porridges and ready-to-eat oat cereals, has installed a digital time-lapse camera in an oat field of one of its main growers.

The tiny camera monitors the growing cycle of the oats and provides additional data for research into new crop varieties for its range of porridges and granolas.

White's also wants to improve the return for its network of growers in Northern Ireland.

Raymond Hillman, agronomist and head of the growing group at White's Oats, said: "Our focus is on purchasing the best quality oats for our milling operation.

"We look at the quality of the kernel content, the bushel weight and hullability."

Mr Hillman said quality was "vitally important".

White's recently achieved British Retail Consortium accreditation - vital for companies wishing to sell to multiple retailers in Britain and abroad.

Mr Hillman said: "The focus on delivering the highest standards from 'farm to fork' is crucially important.

"The ingredients in White's products are fully traceable and reassert its provenance values.

"Data from the camera will be used to inform our decisions on the varieties of oats we use across our wide range of products and provide additional research into oat quality at farm level."

He said most consumers of White's products were unlikely to be aware of the amount of research involved in the growing and milling of oats.

"We have access to the latest research from the Home Grown Cereals Authority and University College of Wales at Aberystwyth University, a centre of expertise in cereals, and we are passionate about working with our growers to help them to increase their yields," he said.

"This involves working together in assessing the characteristics of new varieties and other areas such as nutrition, weed control, soil management, environmental issues, growing and drying techniques and how best to store the harvest."

White's recently announced a £2m investment in its processing capabilities, marketing and staff.

It supplies most main UK and Irish retailers and also exports into China, Hong Kong, Middle East, America and Europe.

The company is part of the Fane Valley group of companies.

Belfast Telegraph

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