PJ Lee and Sons have been in business for around 60 years. The company consists of three generations, Peter Lee as the founder, his sons Trevor and Richard, and their sons Andrew and Christopher Lee.
Following the successful installation of Omnivent’s suction ventilation system, PJ Lee and Sons renovated their stores with the OmniCuro control system for 9 box stores (12.200 tons) at the Sutton Gault Pack House facility and have retrofitted the control systems into their other outlying stores.
PJ Lee and Sons is one of the largest individual producers of top quality chipping potatoes in the country, predominately serving chip shops the length and breadth of the country; potatoes are also exported to Ireland. Trading starts in September and lasts until the end of June. The potatoes are sold on a daily basis by Richard Lee with packing and haulage managed by Pack House Manager, Marious. Mainly large potato producers tend to operate within group organizations, with parts of the production system being outsourced or subcontracted. In the case of PJ Lee they produce the crop in its entirety, from planting through to crop storage and packing out.
Christopher Lee, third generation, explains the drive of this remarkable family partnership and what it means to be one of the largest producer in the country.
The Omnivent PJ Lee suction system was installed in the summer of 2014 in conjunction with their SE England’s agent Thurlow Nunn Stanton, integrating the OmniCuro control system into this new facility and later additional outlying cells across the estate. According to Christopher, Thurlow Nunn has been their advisor and shed builder for the last 20 years due to their great knowledge of the potato storage industry, excellent contacts with contractors and cost effective solutions on potato store constructions.
“It was Thurlow Nunn that recommended Omnivent as they were seen to have the leading potato storage system on the market at the time. Other systems had a larger storage capacity with a lower air flow, which seemed inconvenient for us since our aim was to have produce available for sale at a high quality for the April to June market. With the highest possible air flow, well managed cooling and humidification we were told that the Omnivent system would do it for us.”
Christopher also said on the company structure: “We are a third generation family business consisting of Peter Lee, who is retired and his two sons, Trevor Lee who controls cropping across the 3,000ha estate, and Richard Lee who trades all of the crops including the potatoes, and also sources land. My brother Andrew is responsible for all day to day management, and I am the finance director who is also responsible for store management. Each partner has his own strengths/weaknesses, and being all in the same family, the goal is common. The company is able to benefit from the drive of the family partnership due to the mix of characters and passion needed to survive and prosper within a tough industry.”
PJ Lee on being seen as the market leader: “PJ Lee always endeavors to lead the market in all the varieties we grow. We have high overheads due to the state of the art harvesters, storage facilities and logistics. It is necessary for us to lead the field to ensure a £10-40/t premium. Due to the consistent quality, continuity of supply, and professionalism we are able to create a brand following in the ‘Highflyer’ bag brand. This allows us to charge a premium over our competitors. Storage has been key in achieving the higher prices. A number of successful Omnivent upgrades to other competitor’s stores has proved very successful; this has driven us to improve another 5 cells storing 7500t. PJ LEE will strive to build another 8,500t store over the next few years, again, together in partnership with Omnivent.”
Having the OmniCuro on tablet and phone has been fantastic! Checking through the night, whilst being off site, it is second to none!”Christopher Lee
The new shed has allowed PJ Lee and Sons to apply CIPC at very low rates which lowers overall storage costs but mainly stopped them coming anywhere near close to the maximum residue levels across a storage season.
Christopher Lee has been extremely enthusiastic about the latest automation technology provided by Omnivent. “Having the OmniCuro on tablet and phone has been fantastic! Checking through the night, whilst being off site, it is second to none!” He has only one point of improvement: “it should really come with a breathalyzer to stop some setting changes on a night out.”