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Bike Powered Root Washer v 2.0

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Greetings all-

At the end of last root season, we were tired. As a small company (4 full-time herbalists) that prides itself on maintaining a 30 year old production process steeped in intention and integrity, we were at a loss regarding how to address our current growth spurt and it's effect on our ability to continue producing professional-grade, fresh-plant herb extracts on the scale of our client's demands.

Then we found Lu's design. A dream was born.

We spent all winter revisioning Lu's model to meet our needs and environment, all on his wise instance that his designs were only a starting point, and that we needed to figure out a way to make this washer our own. Among the issues we needed to address; a host of irregularities when it came to root size and type (we process over 320 different species of plant, about 125 of which are root products). It would need to withstand years of use in the sometimes punishingly damp environments of the Olympic Peninsula. Another important point we had to consider was the fact that the tool needed to afford us the ability to comply with all requisite cleaning and sanitation regulations dictated by the FDA and other relevant regulatory agencies.

However, the most important solution to consider was one that Lu himself had already brought to our table (and for why we will forever be grateful to his genius). We now had an avenue to address some of the ethical concerns tangled up in the scale-up of our small time agricultural entity that creatively and effectively forged an avenue to success that didn't involve sacrificing our roots. Literally and figuratively!

When we stood up from the drawing board, we were looking at a stainless steel behemoth on casters and a totally re-designed and robust drive train. She looked, on paper, capable of handling all we were about to ask of it. Attached is the first picture of the waking reality of our dream! We're compiling the evolutionary story of this little project, as well as some detailed information about how you can get one of these beautiful machines fabricated and sent directly to your door. We'll be following along pretty closely with this Sitka, the streamlined stainless steel garbling goddess of the PNW, throughout her first full year as a part of our production cycle (Sitka, from the latin "sitchensis", a common genus amongst native PNW species). We'll be sure to document all the ups and down as we further refine our process and our product.

To this last point, if you are reading this with an interest in purchasing one of our units, please recognize that this was not constructed from the recycled materials list outlined in Lu's original plans. Using Lu's design as an incredibly inspirational design, we were able to redesign and reincorporate elements meant to make the root washer far more robust and capable of maintaining high volume, high quality root washing for a long, long time. Of course, in the spirit of the site and Lu's original intention, the TBD list price for this product and service will reflect the equity we're all trying to achieve in our lives.

In any case, enjoy the teaser photo while we write up our story and take some cool video of Sitka's first day in the shop. Stay tuned.


Eric McKinney COO Heron Botanicals, Inc.

CEO GreenTree Analytics, LLC.

Interim-Director The Botanical Medicine Academy

ccaissie's picture

Beautiful craftsmanship.

Does it work out over the lifetime of the unit to use stainless with all its externalities, with pedal power...or is it better to use replaceable wooden structure, with manufactured motors and electric power.

I know you are designing it with recyclable materials. Do you have any thoughts or calcs on this?


Heron Botanicals's picture

As stated in the article above, we had a host of complex factors to address in our design. The two primary issues are the incredible degrading natural environment of the northern Olympic Peninsula as well as the volume of materials and water being pushed through this machine (we're 30 years old as a company and just getting started…I expect this machine to last).

An additional, far more black and white factor for us to address are the federal regulations that require our products be manufactured with tools that feature non-permeable, non-leeching, solid surfaces that can be cleaned and sanitized with a validated method. It's this last point that makes some of our more utopian dreams just that. Utopian.

Welcome to our working compromise.

In a larger sense, this also fits our greater guiding philosophy as an herb company. Our intention has always been to provide local, sustainable alternatives to traditional herbs of commerce, those like goldenseal and american ginseng that have been all but wiped out of existence based on domestic and foreign demand. In a very real sense, we can only make the changes that our customers are comfortable with and support with their dollars.

As a result, education is a huge part of what we do. If you focus on the micro level, this washer may not as "sustainable" as some. It could be made from more reclaimed materials. However, this particular design allows us to model our particular philosophy to a wide audience of medical practitioners (our clients), who in turn have the opportunity to model and educate responsible and reasoned choices to a wide range of people.

So, in looking over the trees to see the forest, we're quite proud of our design as it supplements our attempts to address issues of botanical conservatism and activism. It's value extends far beyond the numbers I can collect on paper.

I hope there was something in this response that resonates with you, as your question allowed me to discover those pleasantly unexpected unconscious connections that sometimes occur when we put our faith in the intentions guiding our process.