Mechanization of potato grading on small-scale farms: a case study from Peru
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Potatoes arc an important cash crop for small-scale producers worldwide. The move away from subsistence to commercialized farming, combined with the rapid growth in demand for processed agricultural products in developing countries, implies that small-scale farmers and researchers alike must begin to respond to these market changes and consider post-harvest treatment as a critical aspect of the potato farming system. This paper presents and assesses a low cost potato-grading machine that was designed explicitly to enable small-scale potato growers to sort tubers by size for supply to commercial processors. The results of ten experiments reveal that the machine achieves an accuracy of sort similar to commercially available graders. The machine, which uses parallel conical rollers, has the capacity to grade different tuber shapes and to adjust sorting classes, making it suitable for locations with high potato diversity. Its relatively low cost suggests that an improved and adapted version of this machine might enhance market integration of small-scale potato producers not only in Peru, but in other developing countries as well.
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