Insightek Inc., a Pocatello, ID-based technology company, has been awarded a $220,000 research grant by the USDA to test the feasibility of detecting disease in commercial storage units.
Later stages of the research will be conducted at the J. R. Simplot's Idaho Processing facility in Aberdeen, ID, where full-scale test units will be installed.
"With high spoilage rates due to late blight and other diseases, and insufficient technology to readily detect disease and rot, millions of dollars in crops may be wasted each year," said Dr. Terry Tindall, Simplot's manager of agronomy.
"We believe Insightek's research will have a positive affect on the agricultural community and the effort to utilize the latest technology to help produce healthier crops."
Tindall said 88 percent of harvested potatoes in the United States are stored. Crops with more than a 5 percent blight infection rare are considered in danger and should not be stored.
While current storage-facility-control systems can monitor humidity and temperature as well as provide a continuous supply of air, these systems fail to monitor the health of the crop in storage.
"Our objective is to offer a commercial service that eliminates many crop storage problems by predicting storage loss before it becomes physically evident. The latest USDA grant is an important step in the broad-scale commercialization of our technology," Fred Templeton, Insightek president, said.