Business updates: North Carolina sweet potatoes - The Packer

Business updates: North Carolina sweet potatoes

10/16/2013 11:13:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Courtesy Southern Produce Distributors Inc.Southern Produce introduced a line of 1.5 pound bags of steamable sweet potatoes.Burch Farms upgrades grading, packing

Burch Farms, Faison, N.C., has made improvements to its packing line.

The Faison, N.C.-based grower-shipper has installed an optical sorter manufactured by West Sacramento, Calif.-based Odenberg Inc., a division of Dublin, Ireland-based Odenberg Investment Ltd.

The upgraded sorting machinery should help grade sweet potatoes more precisely and catch defects workers may miss, said Jimmy Burch, Burch Farms’ co-owner.

The machinery should also more efficiently spot visual defects including dark spots and cracks and thus improve retail shipments, Burch said.

Burch Farms installed the machinery in mid-September and invested $200,000 in the equipment.

Nash Produce tests ozone for storage spuds

Nash Produce Co., Nashville, N.C., is experimenting with an ozone generator to reduce fungicide use on sweet potatoes.

Thomas Joyner, general manager, said the Food and Drug Administration-approved ozone generator essentially eliminates needing to apply fungicide to prevent soil rot in the cured potatoes shipped out of storage.

“If it is effective as I think it will be, we will essentially stop using fungicide when we ship them,” Joyner said.

“Because there’s no residue, this application can also be used on organic sweet potatoes. The ability to not have to use any fungicide is a good thing.”

The packer began using the treatment in August.

Southern Produce adds microwaveable bags

Entering the microwaveable bag category, Southern Produce Distributors Inc. launched 1.5-pound steamable bags of sweet potatoes.

Introduced in August, the bags hold four or five potatoes and require eight minutes of microwaving time.

The bags are marketed for consumers seeking convenience, said Stewart Precythe, president and chief executive officer of the Faison, N.C.-based grower-shipper.

“I really think this will be a hot item,” Precythe said. “It’s perfect for working mothers as well as fathers as it’s easy to microwave and prepare. They won’t have to buy four to five potatoes for the family, which can be expensive. With this one bag, they could help prepare a meal for the whole family.”

Precythe said buyers have been receptive to the product.

Vick Farms adds labels, bagging machinery

Vick Family Farms, Wilson, N.C., added bagging machinery and developed new labels.

In mid-September, the grower-shipper installed a bagging system that allows it to pack 3- and 5-pound bags.

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