Peruvian Herb Processing
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Arturo Alatrista
Posted on: September 11, 2002

Who writes to you is Arturo Alatrista, co-engineering desing of ECOLIFE (Arequipa-Perú), which offer aromatic herbs (mainly oregano) to the international market. Our processing consists of classification and cleaning of herbs. Today, we are interested to improve our productivity and quality levels because our products are getting access principally to the European market, and we hope achieve a considerable growing in capacity the next years.

Our main problem is the dust quantity in the work environment, as well as, the excessive times required for separate the stems of the herbs.

I was reviewing your web, and I found your last book: Herb Processing. I would like to know any additional information about the book, principally if you recommend it for our requirements. Please understand that I have to present a justification for any purchase.

Additionally, I wonder if you would be available for give us some advice in this respect; maybe we could exchange information....

I hope for any response. (Excuse my English please.)

Nice to meet you, and have a brief idea of what you attempt. Dust removal and control are both discussed in this mini-book. I have photos of Rotocone Separators (scalping), which act with sifting to remove levels of dust (like winnowing).

There are four other types of dust removal and control discussed and shown in pictures, to include Bag Houses and their design. These are like large vacuum systems, usually outside the building. I kept mine inside because I also marketed the dust to bakeries (orange peel, etc.).

Separating the stem from the leaf can take place at the farm, using specific bean harvesters (combines with conveyor deliveries). It would seem by the questions you ask that I might be used as an outside consultant. My fees are nominal and I might get you in the right directions more quickly by consulting.

My rates are $50 per day, working from my home. I also can get a lot done via site visits at $500 per day. Reports and places where to get used machinery can often save more money than doing your designs from in-house experts. I have been used in this capacity by Celestial Seasonings, Botanicals International, and many others.

I can also help set up the warehouse so that your through-put increases 4x normal plant designs. Storage, and how you might want to hold finished product is also one of my stronger points. We use totes, Gaylord’s, burlap and poly, right on down to furniture boxes for special forest products.

With my scientific background, and then 30 years of practical farm experience, I am now the world’s authority on these and related topics. I’m guessing your farm practices could take care of much of your initial problems with dust and too small a particle with some farm crops. The harvest and post-harvest protocols can often make these jobs much easier.

Your English is quite fine, by the way. And yes, we might consider trade, but that would be on the market side. For warehousing protocols, I probably should be brought on-site. With less than $5,000, I can design your plant layout, storage protocols, and options for used and new machinery.

Anyway, the book itself is a classic, and there is nothing written anywhere else on this depth and style of approach. I also have developed some specific dryers for crops like St. John’s Wort and other sun-sensitive herbs. I began by using Hop Kilns when I worked with John I. Haas (Henry Barth, world’s largest hop grower).

He gave me 28 farms in four States (WA, OR, ID, and MT) to develop a multitude of herbs. This was in the early 80s. I had deep pockets to figure out how to dry Comfrey, which I believe may become Brazil’s leading cash crop. It is used in feedlots, and when mixed with Alfalfa, constitutes a "whole food" for cattle.

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