Flame-Sterilization Modification for Potato Seed Cutting Equipment

Colorado State University Background
Potatoes are reproduced by vegetative propagation. True seed is not planted to produce a potato plant, rather growers use cuttings of prior season’s tubers to produce clones of desired potato plant varieties. 
Presently, potato seed cutting machinery cuts tubers using side-by-side metal, rotating discs. The potatoes are forced against these blades and are divided into several pieces that can later be planted. Without sterilization of the blades between the cutting of each tuber, the blades themselves become a mechanical vector for viral, fungal, or bacterial diseases – which have the potential to destroy an entire field of crop. Some common examples of diseases include Blackleg, Ring Rot, Seed Piece Decay, Pythium Leak, Pink Rot, and/or Fusarium Dry Rot.
Presently, best practice sterilization includes a hot water, high pressure rinse of all equipment surfaces that meet the lot of seed tubers being cut. Following the rinse, surfaces are then sprayed with antimicrobial solutions. While this procedure can prove to be an effective solution between lots, the potential for these cutting surfaces to spread disease within a lot of tubers is very high.
Technology Overview
The device utilizes large industry standard rotating cutting disks for slicing tubers that are subsequently flame sterilized to ensure there is no spread of pathogens from seed to seed. The invention described here heats and sanitizes tuber cutting disks via a continuous flame, directed at the cutting surfaces, thereby preventing the spread of pathogens. Thus, every cut of the tuber is sterile, and the risk of pathogen spread is significantly reduced. In addition, to improve energy efficiency, a large half cylinder is placed above the cutting disks and flame manifold to decrease the heat loss. 
A demonstration video of this invention is available upon request!
Benefits

Prevents the spread of harmful pathogens from cutting equipment
Retro-fitting to existing equipment with minimal labour and cost
Easy to adjust the temperature of the blades by simply adjusting valves 
Uses readily available and cost-effective components

Applications

Agriculture: Potato seed cutting 
Food processing and manufacturing procedures 

Opportunity
Available for license 
Technology Readiness Level (TRL): 8

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