Dignitaries who toured the Rhodiola rosea processing plant on its recent opening day were able to see four-year-old roots being processed, as well as seeing some of the powder produced by the processing plant.
The root is the part of the plant harvested for consumption. It takes about three or four years to grow to the proper size for harvest. The powder that is produced from the roots can be added to beverages, taken as a tincture, or formed into caplets.
In the first stage of processing, bins of roots are dumped onto a pallet to bring them to the conveyor to start processing. The roots are then moved to the star table, which removes loose dirt from the roots by shaking them along a series of rotating rubber fingers. Whole roots are then flushed along the primary flume tank, where an agitator at the end of the tank flushes away dirty water and soil.
The roots are then fed into the primary washer which was purchased from Gerber Baby Foods and redesigned by members of the Alberta Rhodiola Rosea Growers Organization (ARRGO) team. A primary cutter chops the roots and crowns into pieces about two inches wide. They are then cleaned and inspected for dirt, rocks, weeds and quality. Good roots travel to the secondary washer, a former garlic washer reconditioned to meet the needs of ARRGO.
The roots then travel to a commercial slicer which cuts the roots into a french fry shape that has been determined to be the best for fast, even drying. The dryer was the most complicated part of the processing plant, and required an addition to the original 7,000-square foot building. The dryer cost more than $500,000 and was created specifically for ARRGO. The dryer has a three-tiered, multi-belt system designed to dry the Rhodiola rosea at a low temperature in order to preserve the root’s active ingredients.
Members of ARRGO start their first processing this month. Since it will not be a year-round operation, members are hoping that growers of other crops may want to use the plant.