Doug Harley, one of Britain's most innovative potato breeders who heads up Cygnet PB, was presented the Potato Industry Award at AHDB's Seed Industry Event in St Andrew’s.

Alongside him was second prize winner, Gerald Croft, who took home the 'Above and Beyond Award' which recognised those unsung potato heroes that go that extra mile to make a positive impact on the potato supply chain.

“Doug Harley has long been at the forefront of seed potato production and breeding, not just here in Britain but internationally," said AHDB Potatoes sector board chair, Sophie Churchill. "Not only that, he has also been committed to driving the industry forward through his leadership on our key industry bodies. He is an undoubtedly deserved winner of the Potato Industry Award.”

After completing a degree in agriculture in Aberdeen, Doug joined the family business – Alexander Harley Seed, based in Kinross, Scotland – and later launched the Cygnet brand which focused on limited generation seed production on a commercial scale. This was an innovative process which drastically reduced the number of generations of potato seed which needed to be grown before it could be used as a commercial crop.

Doug explains: “The old system took nine generations before you could use the seed commercially, the mini tuber technology we pioneered allowed us to multiply up seed in a disease free environment, decrease the number of generations needed to three, and at the same time reduce disease and increase yields.”

The business has changed significantly in the years Doug has been at the helm, and they now breed, produce and export both seed and ware potatoes across the world. New potato varieties, like the recently launched Kingsman, which can be used as a fresh or processing variety and grows equally well in cool and hot climates, help them satisfy such varied markets.

Gerard Croft, seed sales manager for Greenvale AP – the winner of AHDB’s Above and Beyond Award – has spent his entire 36-year career in the seed potato sector after studying agricultural botany at Nottingham University. He initially worked for Pattullo Higgs and stayed with the company when they were taken over by Greenvale AP. Based in Yorkshire his current work involves the marketing of seed of new and existing potato varieties.

Hugely committed to the industry, Gerard was instrumental in the foundation of the British Potato Trade Association, was president from 2010 to 2012, during which he oversaw the rewriting of the seed terms and conditions, and now chairs the legal committee.