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Purple Magic potato developed in Northern Ireland reaches finals of INVENT 2016

By Linda Stewart

Published 24/05/2016

Paul Watts, potato breeder with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, with the potatoes which are purple inside too
Paul Watts, potato breeder with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, with the potatoes which are purple inside too

 A purple potato developed by a Northern Ireland scientist has reached the final of a major invention competition.

Purple Magic, a new breed of Northern Ireland potato with high anthocyanin content, was invented by Paul Watts at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in Loughgall.

Paul has used innovative scientific methods to boost disease resistance and tolerance to stress within the potato breeding programme over the last 30 years.

More recently, Paul invented a novel potato variety that would appeal to modern consumers. There is a growing awareness of the positive health benefits of increased consumption of highly coloured fruit and vegetables and the range of products being offered by supermarkets

“In the early 2000s medical and nutritional research began to show there might be significant health benefits from eating fruit and vegetables with high levels of anthocyanins,” Paul said.

“And in 2003 we made a series of crosses with coloured heritage varieties to try and boost the levels of these antioxidants in new, high yielding and disease resistant varieties.

“The crosses yielded a rainbow of colour in the 2000+ seedlings AFBI produced and they had better yields and disease resistance than the parents.

“A Canadian potato producer visited AFBI Loughgall and this led to one of the seedlings being registered in Canada as Purple Magic.

“And, yes people are buying it and they want more of it. We are now registering the variety in Europe and plan to have it on the market by 2018.”

It has now reached the finals of INVENT 2016, which challenges inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists and startups with proof-of-concepts and prototypes in science and technology to discover the commercial potential of their ideas.

The potatoes are purple inside too
The potatoes are purple inside too

Entrants compete through rounds of pitching assessed by independent expert judges to win a share of a £33,000 prize fund, access to its global network and a place on the NI Tech Mission to California.

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