Danish Starch Industry

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Kongeriget Danmark
- The Kingdom of Denmark

Form of government: Constitutional monarchy
Area: 43,098 sq. km
Population: 5.4m inhabitants
Population density: approx. 127 inhabitants per sq. km
Average life expectancy: men 75.2 years, women 79.9 years
Capital: København (Copenhagen), 1.21m inhabitants in the metropolitan area
Major cities: Aarhus (294,954), Odense (185,871), Aalborg (163,228)
Language: Danish Religion: 83.3% belong to the National Lutheran Church

GDP per capita: $44,805
Currency: Danish krone (DKK)
Vestas Wind Turbines
Running out of oil Denmark will get its energy from wind power plants at sea and maintains self-sufficiency.

The Monopoly Period

In the year 1900, production of potato starch on an industrial scale took place for the first time in Denmark. In 1933 a protective legislation was introduced - a monopoly in reality. This protection  (green curve) of the starch industry continued until Denmark joined the European Economic Community in 1973.

The industry was static during the monopoly, but during the free trade within the European Economic Community the industry began to flourish (blue curve). Danis Starch Industry 1933 - 2015

The Expansion Period

The next big leap ahead started in the late eighties, and over a five year period the production tripled. During that period, the International Starch engineering team erected four new plants with a total capacity of thirty tons of potato starch per hour (red curve). The engineering team also introduced advanced process control in order to improve quality at no extra cost in labor or resources. The production skyrocketed and per capita, the Danes became the largest starch producing nation in the World. Mid nineties the European Union put an end to the expansion by introducing a quota system for potato starch (yellow curve) and this delayed the sales. 2012 The commission put an end to the potato starch regime and the quota system.

Organization and Ownership

Eighty-five per cent of the Danish starch production is exported, and the starch is sold world wide to more than forty countries. The starch is produced on five independent plants all of which are co-operatives owned by some 3,000 farmers. Each farmer has a number of shares. Each share gives the right and the obligation to deliver 100 kg of potatoes. The farmers are called upon by the factory when they are next in turn for delivery and they are immediately paid on account a minimum price. When the starch is sold, the profit is shared according to the quantity of starch delivered. When a farmer retires or for some reason wants to sell his shares, he is allowed to do so. The price for one share is at present close to the value of the quantity of potatoes it represents. No matter how many or few shares a farmer may have, he has just one vote on the general assembly. The farmers elect a board of directors from among them.

The Operation

The board engages a manager responsible for the day to day operation. An engineer is responsible for the technical operation of the plant and maintenance. Staff and other employees make up a total of approximately twenty persons. The table illustrates there functions. The factory runs round the clock seven days a week with only two process operators at each watch - thanks to an advanced process technique. A few extra hands are needed on the day shift for logistics and any odd jobs.

Starch Sales

The factories are independent, but none of them sell starch themselves. Since the time of the monopoly, some of them sell their products through a cartel, which is also a co-operative owned by the member factories. Including sales staff approximately 150 people are employed in the starch manufacturing industry. The annual production is above 1000 tons per employee, and no more efficient starch industry is found anywhere else. The large work force is made up of the farmers.

Starch Manufacturing

The potato crop requires a lot of attendance and makes it easy for a small family enterprise to earn its living. The potatoes are grown in crop rotation, and potatoes are only grown one year out of four on the same plot. This is the most effective measure of decease control. The harvest begins late august and ends before winter becomes hard. The factories run until the whole crop is processed. Normally the production campaign ends January. The short campaign requires large stores for the starch - the most is stored in silos. Today our largest factory is processing 600 t/h potatoes and turn them into120 t dry starch per hour.

Potato Breeding

The starch manufacturing requires special potato varieties high in starch content. The breeding stations are therefore fundamental elements of the industry. The operation of the stations is paid by the government. New varieties with improved resistance against disease and with higher starch yield are continuously developed and brought on the market. Maximum yield on the experimental stations is close to 90 metric tons of potatoes per hectare. The farmers are not achieving this in practice, but the experimental result is the provocative target.

Waste Handling

The only by-products are pulp and fruit juice. The pulp is sold wet to nearby farmers, and it is a valued cattle fodder. The juice is used as a fertilizer and distributed in road tankers or in pipelines connected to the farmers irrigation systems. Recent years protein has been precipitated from the juice as animal feed. The residual juice is evaporated and applied as a organic fertilizer. The environment has for years been a great concern to the Danes, and the starch industry has learned to live up to the strict rules set by the authorities. The industry is therefore quite prepared to meet the challenge of the future - and starch has a future indeed. It is a most pure and versatile natural polymer with progressive uses in our everyday life.

Typical organisation plan for a Danish medium size starch factory producing
40.000 t native starch per annum - 12 t/h round the clock in five shifts during the campaign.

  Function No. per shift Total.
Administration Managing director 1 1
  Clerk 1 1
White collars1     2
Workshop Mechanic 1 1
Manufacture Technical manager 1 1
  Process Operators 2 10
  Raw material handling 2 2
  End Product handling 4 4
By-products Land spreading 1 1
Blue collars2     19
Total employees     21

1) White collars exclusive of sales- and lab staff
2) Blue collars: Two operators on each shift makes ten plus additionally eight at the day shift