The Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the National University of Mar del Plata, INTA Balcarce and the University Center for Citizen Innovation (CUIC) of the Faculty of Exact Sciences of Unicen, have designed the Papatronica, an open-source electronic device that identifies the place and the moment in which potatoes are hit during the production process. The goal of this invention is to reduce post-harvest losses in potato cultivation, which reach up to 35% of the total production, according to data provided by FAO, and improve the product's quality.
As highlighted in a report on the investigation, identifying the place where the blows are occurring will allow making corrections, reduce their impact on the quality of the tubers, and minimize the incidence and dispersion of pathogens that generate post-harvest rot. The data collected by the device is transmitted wirelessly to a mobile device in order to regulate the processes within the value chain.
The Papatronica is a structure that has a small micro-controller with a motion sensor - like cell phones - and a Bluetooth and wifi transmitter. "These elements are located inside a potato-shaped shell that can be reproduced on a 3D printer and that is placed on the ground with the rest of the potatoes at the time of harvest," said Luciano Velazquez, a professor and researcher at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the Unmdp. "The harvester lifts the potatoes and producers can observe the movements in real-time in a cell phone, which will allow them to make adjustments to the machinery if necessary."
Gustavo Pereyra Irujo, a researcher at INTA Balcarce, highlighted the versatility of the device. "Since it's based on open source technology, people can make modifications to it in order to adapt it to other services required by the production process. For example, by incorporating a temperature sensor to use it as a monitoring tool during storage."