North Carolina: Innovative cooling method increases sweet potato profits

More than 100 operations across North Carolina now use negative horizontal ventilation to increase profits and shelf life of sweet potatoes for customers. This is a method of forced air cooling, invented by N.C. State professor dr. Mike Boyette.

Boyette: “You can grow sweet potatoes from Ontario, to all the way down to Uruguay and all over the world. But only the places that have invested in the infrastructure we got here...that can keep them, I mean, I have seen potatoes like this, out of the ground for 13 months.”

The storage technique uses fans that allow farms to control the temperature and humidity in the buildings where sweet potatoes are stored. ​

“What you can guarantee is that every potato in the room ... is going to be at about the same temperature," Boyette told

It matters for operations like Lancaster Farms in Wilson, because it's an export packer, exporting 100% of its sweet potatoes overseas. "Once they leave our facility, they are on a container for two weeks," said Sarah Carraway, the farm's office manager. "There's probably three weeks between the time it gets packed at our facility, to actually hits the warehouse in the EU, UK or wherever we are sending."

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