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Prototype for potato defects

Countryman

With retailers becoming increasingly selective regarding the physical appearance of fresh produce, detecting defects in potatoes is one of the most important elements of the packing process.

In response, researchers in the United Kingdom have created a prototype system that automatically identifies potato defects to aid pack houses with quality control testing.

Funded by the Potato Council UK, the University of Lincoln and Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research have utilised consumer-grade computer systems to develop an intuitive technology that uses artificial intelligence algorithms to learn visual cues such as size, colour, texture and shape in real-time.

"This autonomous technology is able to identify conditions such as Black dot, Silver scurf, Common scab and greening, which will without a doubt have a significant impact on the future of potato packing, distribution and ultimately the end product purchased by the consumer," AUSVEG spokesperson Felicity Powell said.

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AUSVEG is the leading voice in horticulture representing Australia's 2000 potato growers.

This research and development project is one of several appearing in the August/September issue of leading industry publication, Potatoes Australia.

"Quality control testing is an important decision tool for the potato supply chain, as it can be used to determine which market sectors to target or whether certain crops are suitable for storage," Ms Powell said.

"Using a simple web camera and a graphics processing unit that can be found in an everyday PC, which can potentially make optical sorting technology more affordable for growers, the University of Lincoln's School of Computer Science has brought concepts from the future to fruition."

Following the success of the prototype system, the UK Technology Strategy Board agreed to fund a project to develop commercially viable systems.

The researchers are also exploring opportunities to adapt the software for crops other than potatoes.

"With quality assessments traditionally undertaken by eye, this system will prove invaluable if commercialised, as it would provide a more efficient and timely method of assessing the quality of potatoes," Ms Powell said.

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