Wednesday, 20 September 2017

 

Boise State University researchers Harish Subbaraman, David Estrada and Yantian Hou are working on a wireless sensor network that would be able to detect temperature, humidity levels, carbon dioxide and ammonia levels in real time, to help with early detection of rot in stored potatoes.

According to the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, farmers plant more than 320,000 acres of potatoes every spring, valued at USD550-USD700m. Yet roughly 30% of the potatoes harvested spoil before they reach a grocery store shelf.

In a recently awarded one-year USD413,681 Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) grant, Boise University is collaborating with Idaho State University and industry partners Isaacs Hydropermutation Technologies, Inc (IHT) and Emerson. They aim to develop a cloud-enabled sensor system that will feature three-dimensional hot spot visualization and help predict on-coming rot or deteriorating quality of stored potatoes. This will allow owners to use the real-time sensor data, along with a miniature air scrubber system IHT is developing, to respond to potential problems quickly, as they develop.

“The current problem is, there are no sensors that can do early detection of rot,” said Subbaraman, an assistant professor of electrical engineering. “But if you can identify rot at an early stage, you can prevent crop loss on a large scale.”

“Rot spreads on contact. The way the system works now is, a farmer walks into their facility, smells rotten potatoes and that’s it,” added Estrada, an assistant professor of materials science. “But our sensors can detect parts per million, or even parts per billion, and can tell us in exactly which bin the sensor is detecting rot. That way, farmers can pull out a few rotten potatoes and save the rest of the batch.”

Estrada explained that the cost of printing sensors could be as low as a few dollars a piece. Not only would the monitoring system prevent waste, it could help preserve the quality of potatoes in the facility.  

Related articles: 

SCOPE Receives EUR1m to Research Potato Crop Disease 

A Research Consortium Studies Potato Greening 

AVEBE and BASF Plant Science start research and development cooperation

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