Black Gold Farms used an Odenberg Halo sorter during its potato seasons in Missouri and Texas earlier this year, and now the same machine — which is mounted on a mobile platform — is making things easier for the company in Grand Forks, N.D.

“The ability of the machine to consistently produce a good pack at high speed is fantastic,” said Keith Groven, operations and sales coordinator. “It is faster than hand grading used to be, and it produces a more consistent pack. It’s a big deal for us to upgrade to the optical sorter.”

Groven said the sorter reduced labor expenses and increased the company’s packing capacity by 25%.

“The biggest benefit we see is more consistent quality and a more consistent pack as we move from lot to lot,” he said.

Black Gold, which ships year-round, harvests from Texas in May and from Missouri in June and July. The company also has added the ability to pack poly bags in Grand Forks. It previously shipped North Dakota potatoes to its Missouri facility for repacking.

“This year, we can ship directly to retail,” Groven said.

Groven said Sept. 25 that the company was halfway through with its North Dakota harvest.

“We’re right on schedule,” he said. “We’re seeing the best harvest conditions we’ve had in the past three or four years. The past few years have been drier and warmer than what is ideal. This year we have had the right amount of moisture leading up to harvest and cooler temperatures, so the potatoes have gone into storage in really nice condition.”

Black Gold lost 15% of its acreage to a wet spring, but Groven said the company will have adequate volume.

“The acres we have been harvesting have yields that are making up for the lost acres,” he said. “We don’t think we’re going to be short on potatoes at all.”