Growing potatoes has been a way of life for the Battersby family in Ashbourne, Co. Meath for over 50 years. Trading as Rice’s Hill Farm Ltd, the Battersby’s are passionate about growing and supplying potatoes of the highest quality.
From humble beginnings, Rice’s Hill Farm has become one of the main suppliers to Tayto Snacks and Sam Dennigan & Co. The family tradition of growing potatoes was started by the late Tony Battersby and has been carried on by his son Anthony, and his sons Andrew and Ian. They’re ably assisted by four full-time staff.
Having started from ‘nothing’, the enterprise now grows 530 acres of potatoes each year, making it one of the largest potato producers in the region. Meath is renowned for its Loamy soil which holds plenty of moisture and also drains well so that sufficient air can reach the roots. About 450 acres of the annual crop is supplied to Tayto Snacks. Located only a stone’s throw away from Rices Hill Farm and part of the Intersnack Group since 2007, Tayto Snacks is Ireland’s leading manufacturer and distributor of premium snacks, including crisps, snacks, peanuts and popcorn.
On any given day, Tayto Snacks produces two million snack products which are sold throughout Ireland, the UK, Europe, Australia and the Middle East. Tayto Snacks operates a powerhouse of iconic Irish brands, including Tayto, Hunky Dory, King, KP and Perri. Quality is paramount to the organisation and Tayto Snacks has an excellent track record in producing Ireland’s best quality snacks.
At Tayto Snacks, they are committed to enriching people’s lives with the very best savoury snacks. They achieve this not only through their unique blend of international expertise and local knowledge, but also through their innovative approach, outstanding product quality and by striving for excellence in all areas.
“Our potatoes are Bord Bia Quality Assured and are noted for their quality and taste. Meath is a great county for potato growing. There are a lot of other growers in our area. The soil type is particularly suited to growing spuds,” Anthony says.
Rice’s Hill Farm grows Lady Rosetta, Lady Claire and Edony potatoes which are a perfect variety for making crisps out of. Thanks to its high dry matter content and low sugars, the Lady Rosetta is the straight off the land crisping variety. It has a high harvest security in combination with good yield thanks to a uniform tuber sorting size.
The Lady Claire variety is a storage crop which means it can be used all year round. A mainstay for the crisps industry, Lady Claire has no final use-by date and is easy to peel. Its high dry matter content and early maturation make it possible to select an optimal harvest time.
Edony is also widely used in crisp processing. A high yielding variety, it produces numerous round tubers uniform in size and is particularly adapted to long storage at low temperature. The Battersby’s also grow 60 acres of Rooster per annum. Rooster is a red-skinned potato with a light, floury texture. They are uniformly roundish in shape with shallow eyes, making them easy to peel. They can be boiled, mashed, chipped, roasted, steamed or baked and a firm favourite with Irish consumers.
The Roosters are supplied to Sam Dennigan & Co. Based in Oldtown, North Co. Dublin, the company sources, assembles and distributes a full range of fresh produce to the wholesale, retail and foodservice sectors throughout the 32 counties.
The potato cycle on Rice’s Hill Farm begins in March / April / May when planting takes place, followed by harvesting in September / October. In between, the crop is sprayed every 10 days to control and prevent the spread of potato blight, which can wipe out a crop overnight. Once harvested, the potatoes are stored in storage facilities either at the farm or at Tayto Snacks.
The Battersby’s have an array of machinery to sow, maintain and harvest their potatoes, including five Deutz Fahr tractors which were purchased from local dealer Gerry Duffy Machinery. They also run two Grimme destoners, a four-row Grimme 470 harvester, a new four-row Grimme planter, a Maschio subsoiler, two Maschio rotavators and a ridger to name but a few. The Co. Meath concern enjoys an excellent relationship with dealers such as Grimme Ireland, WVD Machinery and Kiernan Plant Hire as well as with Eamon Reilly Transport, who look after their haulage needs.
Not surprisingly, Anthony is concerned about rising costs across the board which are putting many farm enterprises to the pin of their collar.
“Everything has gone up – diesel, machinery, fertilizer and blight control spray. You’d wonder where it’s all going to end?” he ponders.
Not one for resting on his laurels, Anthony is in the process of setting up another company, Ashbourne Turf Lawns, which will target the landscape sector.
“I wanted to try something different,” he explains.
“We’ve set aside 30 acres for grass rolls which are specially grown grass fields cut into smaller sections, rolled up and prepared to be installed as a garden. The new venture is almost ready to go and we’re launching a new website as well. Our location beside the M2 and 10 minutes from the M50 will be a key selling point for the business.”
Anthony would like to take this opportunity to thank his customers – Tayto Snacks and Sam Dennigan & Co – suppliers and professional team for their continued support.
“Quality is everything for both us and our customers that is why we take the necessary steps to ensure the crops are treated properly and we get the best yield possible,” he concludes.
Rice’s Hill Farm Ltd
Telephone: 086 2511952
Email: [email protected]
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 10 No 6, November/December 2022