Big Data for Better Sweet Potatoes

When it comes to growing sweet potatoes, North Carolina is a superstar – growing more than the next three states combined.

Now an interdisciplinary team from NC State, SAS and Intero Life Sciences are partnering for a three-year project that will use artificial intelligence to make sweet potatoes even more profitable.

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. 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.

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