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North Carolina launches big data for better sweet potatoes


September 9, 2020
By Fruit and Vegetable

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Photo courtesy of N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative.

An interdisciplinary team from North Carolina State University, SAS Institute and Intero Life Sciences are partnering for a three-year project that will use artificial intelligence to make sweet potatoes even more profitable.

North Carolina grows more sweet potatoes than the next three states combined.

The team will work with sweet potato producers including sixth-generation family-farm Scott Farms to image hundreds of thousands of sweet potatoes and then calculate their shape and quality characteristics.

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Researchers from the university will combine all of that image data with a host of additional information – growth location, fertilizer type, weather – and use advanced machine learning algorithms to determine which factors impact sweet potato size and shape. The goal is to increase the percentage of sweet potatoes that are USDA grade 1, and thus most profitable for growers.

The big data project is part of the N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative, which aims to bring together academia, government and industry to drive vital research and innovation to solve the world’s agricultural challenges.