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Master of Agribusiness

Analysis of Raw Potato Sorting Technology on a Potato Chip Line

Audra Geiger, Topeka, Kan., defended her thesis, “Analysis of Raw Potato Sorting Technology on a Potato Chip Line,” April 1, 2011. Geiger is the Plant Quality Enabler at Frito-Lay Inc. in Topeka. She will graduate from Kansas State University in May with a Master’s in Agribusiness (MAB).

Frito-Lay is the largest salty snack producer in the U.S. with well-known brands such as Lay’s® Ruffles®, Tostitos®, Sunchips®, Fritos®, Cheetos® and Doritos®. A key to remaining profitable is making sure that quality potatoes are used for making chips. Currently, a person is responsible for spotting and removing raw potatoes with foreign matter or discoloration. There is now technology available to conduct the sorting that could increase quality and reduce employee labor costs.

“Automation of the sorting line could be beneficial to the Topeka plant,” Geiger said. “We would be able to shift personnel currently on the sorting line to other positions within the plant where they are needed and still maintain high-quality products.”

Geiger conducted a net present value analysis of the costs and benefits of installing an automated raw potato inspection system for her Master of Agribusiness thesis project.

Bryan Schurle, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Geiger’s thesis advisor, said, “It is great to see the principles, tools and techniques we teach applied to relevant and important problems in the food and agribusiness industry. The students bring in great problems and they know a lot about the problem, so when that information is combined with the material we teach, we get interesting projects and results that are valuable for all involved including the industry for which they work.”

The full thesis publication can be found online on K-State’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/16159.