- The machine is designed in a manner so that it can be modified and improved upon to increase capacity and the volume of processing output.
- With the advent of the machine, sorrel farmers now have the option to plant more crops and have a bigger yield.
- The Minister says that more recently, there has been an increase in the use of sorrel in local beverages, such as the internationally acclaimed Red Stripe beer.
Farmers preparing to plant sorrel to meet next year’s demand for the rich, nutritious Christmas-time drink, now have the option of using a locally developed machine, to reduce the time and cost of processing the fruit.
The Sorrel Harvesting Machine was developed by St. Elizabeth farmers and founders of Turner Innovations Limited, Oral and Allison Turner.
The machine feeds picked sorrel buds on a conveyor belt into a funnel apparatus, which then separates the calyx from the seed pod. The calyx is used in a variety of dishes, and gives the sorrel drink its rich colour and bold flavour.
The machine has the capacity to process up to 600 pounds of the fruit in a 10-hour period to produce 300 lb of de-seeded sorrel.
This decreases the labour cost of hand stripping the sorrel by at least 50 per cent. In addition, the machine is operated by a single user, reducing the manpower from 10 to one person per session.
The machine is designed in a manner so that it can be modified and improved upon to increase capacity and the volume of processing output.
Mrs. Turner tells JIS News that there has been positive feedback from industry stakeholders. She notes that from the start, the Ministry of Agriculture has been very supportive of the initiative.
The prototype was presented to the Ministry in 2011, which then made a submission to the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) for assistance in developing the technology and putting it on the market.
The Turners, since then, have made various modifications to the machine to perfect it for commercial use.
Farmers can schedule use of the machine by contacting Turner Innovations Limited’s Manchester offices at Comma Pen, Watson Hill P.O.; telephone 965-5078, or email email@example.com.
The farmer is required to pay a 50 per cent deposit at the time of reservation and pay the balance when the picked crop is delivered for processing.
There is also an option to transport the machine to the farms for the fruit to be processed on-site.
Mrs. Turner says that the machine was developed in an effort to speed up the processing of the fruit as well as make the activity more economical for farmers.
“We realise that we can take the tedium out of harvesting and be able to (offer) some help in terms of (saving) time and money for the farmers who are in the industry…this is the solution that they have been looking for, for a long time now,” she says.
She notes that a lot of farmers have left the industry due to the high costs associated with harvesting and processing.
“In Jamaica, people charge a lot of money to pluck the sorrel, and it’s very time consuming. So, by the time you pay for land preparation and fertiliser and all the things associated with sorrel growing and then you sell, at the price being paid for the fruit, it usually works out at a loss for the farmers,” she laments.
She notes that preparation of an acre of land for sorrel is about $50,000 “but you are only actually able to reap from that acre about 2,200 lb.”
Mrs. Turner says that depending on availability, the current local market price of sorrel is between $70 and $100 per pound. At these prices, she says that local farmers lose between $5 and $10 in profit compared with the cost of harvesting.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Derrick Kellier, in welcoming the machine, says it will “increase the opportunity for our local farmers to compete globally in the sorrel market by increasing income and reducing costs.”
He agrees that the high costs associated with harvesting the fruit have greatly impeded production.
“In 2014, Jamaica produced 1, 595 hectares of sorrel and is currently one of the smallest exporters of sorrel due to its labour intensive costs. While we have made efforts in the past to increase the local production of sorrel, these have been hampered by the high costs associated with reaping the produce,” he states.
He adds that in 2011, the estimated expenditure per crop cycle in the St. Catherine region was some $255,000, of which $96,000 was for picking and de-seeding.
With the advent of the machine, sorrel farmers now have the option to plant more crops and have a bigger yield.
Minister Kellier says that this will enable farmers to have a competitive advantage on the global market.
“Over the past 14 years, the demand for sorrel on the global market has risen significantly with it being one of the top 10 flavours and trends in the United States marketplace and is expected to become a common ingredient in the beverage market,” he states.
The Minister says that more recently, there has been an increase in the use of sorrel in local beverages, such as the internationally acclaimed Red Stripe beer.
“I believe that sorrel has the potential to become the most sought-after drink of the future, leading to higher demands,” he notes.
The machine is not restricted for use by farmers. Mrs. Turner says that the machine can also be used by manufacturers, who purchase the picked sorrel from the farmer and process it for drinks, juices, sauces, among other things.
The Turners have been recognised for their innovation, winning the coveted National Medal for Science, Technology and Innovation Award for 2014 in the Agriculture, Food and Agro-processing category.
They continue to receive support from the Agriculture Ministry, Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), and the Scientific Research Council (SRC).