Run by the Sandholts, Minne Gård in Norway covers 475 hectares. The family cultivates 100 hectares of potatoes, as well as barley, wheat, oats, rapeseed, clover and carrots. Farming in Norway is heavily dependent on climate, and Minne Gård is an excellent example of a farm that gets the most out of a short growing season for potatoes.
By adopting precision technologies like GPS and using an innovative application of fertilizers, the farm has achieved potato yields 50% higher than the national average. The farm has also diversified successfully, converting an old farm building into a café and an additional farmhouse into a holiday rental.
Certification and assurance
The farm is certified under the Norwegian Agricultural Quality Assurance Scheme, KSL Matmerk. KSL is the main agricultural quality assurance scheme in Norway and covers all aspects of production from food safety, product quality, traceability, environment and worker welfare.
Minne Gård has invested in several precision technologies including GPS. The farm uses this technology to support the accurate application of crop inputs, including fertilizer and plant protection products, and to improve the accuracy of potato planting. GPS is also fitted to the crop sprayer, which helps decrease chemical application inaccuracies by limiting overlaps and off-target treatments.
The farm has recently invested in a Yara N-sensor, developed for site-specific management of nitrogen application. The N-Sensor is mounted on the tractor roof, where it measures light reflectance from the crop, and in real time assesses the quantity of nitrogen fertilizer to apply as the tractor and application equipment move through the field. The farm is also engaged in trial work with Yara in the optimization of nutrient inputs, including efficient application of nitrogen and phosphorus.
Minne Gård uses a split application of phosphorus fertilizer in order to provide a timely supply of nutrient throughout the plants' growing stages. Mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP), a soluble form of phosphorus, is applied directly around the region of seed tuber growth for optimum uptake. It is applied initially at the time of planting, and again at tuber initiation to generate more tubers and a more even tuber set.
The farm works with local consultants who inform and advise on the best practice for disease management and nutrient planning. By using national and local disease risk forecasting, appropriate quantities of fungicide are applied in a timely, effective way, saving resources and protecting the surrounding environment.
The farm enterprise has diversified beyond agricultural production. The farmhouse has been converted into a Bed & Breakfast accommodation and the family have developed a fishing tourism venture using the local resources. A café and shop have been opened on the farm premises, and farm buildings are frequently rented out for events.
For the past 10 years, Minne Gård has used soil sampling to measure and monitor levels of key nutrients and pH across the farm. The technology provides a detailed picture for the application of fertilizers and lime to achieve optimum and consistent soil nutrient levels across the entire arable area.
Minne Gård irrigates its crops using computer-controlled hose reels operating rain guns, a flexible and adaptable approach that, when correctly applied, provides a uniform and consistent quantity of water.
Advancing economically viable farming
Around 40% of the potato crop planted at Minne Gård is of the variety Innovator. This crop is a durable variety with high disease resistance, notably to the ubiquitous late blight and airborne diseases, making it especially suitable for the harsher climate in Norway.
Through careful variety selection and efficient crop management, the farm has achieved consistently high yields, with 38 tons/hectare produced in 2011, 58.3% higher than the national average potato yield in Norway.
The farm has invested in a biomass boiler that operates on woodchip produced exclusively from trees grown on the farm. The boiler has decreased fuel oil requirements by 28,000 liters, providing an annual saving of NOK147,000 (€20,000).
Biodiversity and ecosystems
The woodlands and field margins are being developed in a way that will benefit local wildlife and improve soil quality on the farm. The farm is also undertaking measures to protect the population of pollinator bees in the local area.
Human rights and well-being
Part-time staff salaries exceed that stipulated in a collective agreement for employees in agriculture and horticulture in Norway. In addition, staff are provided with subsidized housing and access to a car with inclusive fuel.
Learn more about Amund Sandholt’s story
Explore the case study, where you’ll find extra details on how the farm has performed against the program’s good practice standards and criteria, what external research reveals about the producer’s actions and how improved sustainability benefits them.
“Growing quality potatoes in the short growing season we have in Norway is quite a challenge. We have to ensure that we maximize the growing season by effective and efficient field preparation, planting and harvesting. Therefore, we are keen to acquire and learn new techniques to improve our efficiency and productivity. The maintenance of equipment and machinery is key to ensuring we reduce the likelihood of breakdowns, and we have also developed action plans in case of unforeseen events.
Our employees are a vital part of our business, and their expertise and competence help us to achieve our business goals.
Becoming part of McDonald's Flagship Farmers Program will further increase our focus on growing quality potatoes. New and good practices highlighted through the program will provide us with inspiration to develop and improve our production.”
“Producing potatoes in the challenging environment of Norway takes precise management and significant investment in equipment to allow field operations to be undertaken in limited time frames provided by the weather conditions. Minne Gård has shown that investment in equipment and technology has provided benefits both financially and environmentally. Potato yields are over 50% higher than the national average, and their quality for processing is excellent.
Amund’s management has provided access to a profitable and expanding market, while ensuring other key areas such as the local environment and employee welfare are protected and enhanced.”