Researchers in the WARF Accelerator program are using advanced imaging technology to detect late blight in potatoes, which famously led to the Irish potato famine in the mid-nineteenth century.
In a recent interview, program manager Greg Keenan highlighted some of the top innovations getting investment support from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Keenan has more than 20 years of industry experience with startups and other companies, and now works to identify opportunities for commercialization among UW-Madison research projects.
“We have over 100 technologies in the accelerator program alone where we’ve made investments to try to commercialize the technologies,” he said.
He noted that more than 1 billion people across the world eat potatoes, and late blight still has a global impact.
Potato growers in the state produced 28 million hundredweight of potatoes in 2016, making Wisconsin the third-largest potato producing state in the country after Idaho and Washington. Potato farming is clustered in the central part of the state, according to DATCP.
“We have a professor who’s invented a way to detect the disease from an aerial-mounted imaging device, so you can detect the disease before the human eye can even see it,” he said. “This will help our Wisconsin potato farmers in dealing with this terrible disease, but it certainly has global implications as well.”