Feature

Sweet potatoes: Ready for their close-up?

ConAgra’s scientists are busy developing a sweet potato shaped more or less like a brick.

In the world of produce, it’s downright revolutionary, said Ilan Brat in The Wall Street Journal. ConAgra, the agribusiness giant, has built what is believed to be the first plant devoted exclusively to the sweet potato. The $155 million plant in Delhi, La., is expected to churn out a variety of sweet potato fries and other products for the food-service industry.

There’s just one problem: The sweet potato’s knobby, irregular shape doesn’t play nicely with highly standardized manufacturing gear. That’s why ConAgra’s scientists are busy developing a sweet potato shaped more or less like a brick. That may sound far-fetched, but Idaho entrepreneur J.R. Simplot performed a similar trick with the humble russet potato in the 1940s. He then landed a contract with McDonald’s that made him one of America’s richest men.

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