Mississippi Sweet Potato Innovation Challenge

The sweet potato industry is a vital part of Mississippi’s agricultural identity and contributes more that $130 million in total value to the state’s economy each year and creates over 1,000 jobs. Interest and opportunities in sweet potatoes are increasing, however the market can be highly variable. Sweet potato customers have very strict rules defining size, shape, color, and appearance. Approximately 30% of the harvested crop (79 million pounds in 2012) do not meet these standards. Cull sweet potatoes are unmarketable but still have the same properties and high quality nutrition as premium sweet potatoes found on grocers’ shelves. The Mississippi Sweet Potato Challenge was created to establish a stable market for domestic cull sweet potatoes through the development of innovative new products. Mississippi State University students have the opportunity to take part in this unique service-learning, research-based experience that will benefit students and sweet potato growers while potentially creating a new industry in the state.