(May 5) Thanks to a new sweet potato sizer, Spring Acres Sales Co. Inc., Spring Hope, N.C., may experience an increase in acreage and sales, said Dale Thorne, salesman in charge of quality assurance.

Spring Acres installed a six-lane, 18-station Hagan electronic photo sizer on its packing line last winter, Thorne said.

The equipment runs each potato by a photo cell that measures each spud. Rather than just preparing a 40-pound box, the equipment makes it possible for Spring Acres to offer 5-pound bags, 10-pound boxes and Eurocontainers, Thorne said.

“We can give the customer exactly what they want — any combination, size of potato, weight, length or diameter that they ask for,” Thorne said.

Along with offering a wider variety of sizes, the machine reduces processing time and provides more consistency in sizing, he said.

“It removes the human factor,” Thorne said of the new equipment. “It never looks away. It never takes a break.”

The electronic photo sizer was a $500,000 investment, Thorne said.

“There are a lot of people that’d love to have them,” Thorne said. “I think this is the leading edge.”