We went to a potato field in Hokkaido!

Hokkaido is the largest producer of potatoes in Japan. This time, we had the privilege to visit and see a potato field and storage buildings of Calbee Potato’s contract farmer in Hokkaido, and they were astonishingly huge!

The Fa-So-La AKIHABARA shops carry snacks, such as “Jaga Pokkuru” and “Potekotan” , that are made with the potatoes harvested from the potato fields of Calbee Potato’s contract farmers, and they are extremely popular among customers around the world. Potatoes are a food that is consumed widely around the world, but are the potatoes harvested from the fields of Calbee Potato’s contract farmers different from others? For this article, the company generously allowed us to go inside one of the potato fields and storage buildings that are normally not open to the public.

Calbee Obihiro Factory in Obihiro City, Hokkaido

First, let’s talk about the basics of potatoes. From what we have heard, there are very few private companies in Japan that are doing R&D of potatoes by themselves because, among other reasons, even if they begin working on the development of a new variety, it takes about 15 years for them to be able to actually start growing them in the fields. Calbee Potato, on the other hand, is always doing research to develop varieties that are suitable for its products and that are easy to grow while producing a sufficient amount of potatoes for its products. Through these efforts, the company has developed a variety called “Poroshiri,” which is a variety specially developed for potato chips. Next, we’d like to share with you what we saw at the potato field. A variety called Snowden is grown here. It is a variety that Calbee Potato brought over from the U.S., and it is used exclusively for potato chips.

Harvesting with a harvester. Such a large area cannot be harvested by hand.

The field is vast, so huge machines called harvesters are used for harvesting potatoes. This time, by special arrangement, we were allowed to get on one of the harvesters to experience harvesting ourselves. As soon as it starts moving, countless potatoes are transferred onto the machine by conveyor while unnecessary things such as stones and weeds are removed by hand.

A large harvester for harvesting. It is amazing that the machine can harvest until about 4,000 kg of potatoes are accumulated in the tanks on this machine!

They are harvested incessantly by harvesters.

The harvested potatoes are promptly loaded onto dedicated trailers, then transported to storage buildings.

Harvested potatoes are gathered.

Due to favorable factors such as good weather, this year’s production seems quite promising, according to the company, and the storage building filled with potatoes are stacked up nearly 5 meters high. In the gigantic storage building, there are many rooms for storing potatoes, each of which can hold up to about 2,000 tons of potatoes. Each room is equipped with a system for regulating temperature and humidity to keep the potatoes fresh.

A connected conveyor belt carries the potatoes to a room, where they are finally stacked by a machine called a piler.

A view from above of a room full of potatoes. It is surprising that this quantity is consumed in about 10 days at one plant.

When transported to factories, potatoes are mainly placed in such containers.

The potatoes are transported from these storage buildings to factories around Japan, turned into products such as potato chips, then sold to us consumers. Not only are we surprised to know that it takes so much effort beyond our imagination to produce the potato chips that we casually enjoy in our daily lives, but we also feel truly grateful for potato farmers.

The snacks of Calbee and Calbee Potato that are carried at the Fa-So-La AKIHABARA shops are of course made with potatoes harvested the same way. We recommend that you picture the scene of the farm in your mind when you eat the snacks. It would probably make them taste even better!

(Information as of October 2023) <Related article> Jaga Pokkuru—a one of a kind potato snack