Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
Comma Pen, St Elizabeth:
AFTER THEIR friend gave up on sorrel cultivation because of high post-overhead costs, Oral Turner and wife Allison took home the problem. Turner was inspired and out of their deliberations, a sorrel-picking machine was born.
That was the upshot of the story the couple shared during the demonstration of their invention at the Hope Gardens office of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) on Thursday.
On hand to share in the occasion were Dr Kavian Cooke of the University of Technology's (UTech) Faculty of Engineering, as well as Marina Young and Phillip Chung, both senior executives with RADA, who had all seen the sorrel picker before.
Contrary to what the name suggests, the machine is not a harvester, but rather, it picks or separates the calyx or fleshy part of the sorrel used primarily for making the drink in a fast, efficient way. Thursday's demonstration came a month after the couple visited UTech to seek advice on improving their prototype to make it more efficient.
Cooke recalled the occasion very well. He told The Gleaner: "Once we saw how it worked, we were excited at the potential for the machine."
In fact, Cooke's department has committed to helping with modifications to ensure that it meets international food-safety standards in terms of the material used in the final design and a tweaking of the design in other areas.
For the Turners, this was a welcome chapter in what started as a dismal tale in their community of Comma Pen, St Elizabeth, where they operate a farm store. Their friend, who had enjoyed a bumper crop from four acres of sorrel, would stop by, lamenting the high labour costs associated with reaping. Paying out $1,500 per person each day, the amount of 'picked' sorrel was woefully lacking, and was certainly not enough to make it feasible, and eventually, the friend just gave up.
Afterwards, Turner would bring home sorrel as he discussed the issue with his wife, an issue still fresh in her mind.
"Oral started bringing home sorrel and spent time spinning it in his hand, much to my annoyance. I was very annoyed because there was sorrel all over the house," she recalled.
As the couple toyed with the idea of finding a more efficient way to extract the sorrel, it became a major topic of discussion in the evenings. Then three months on, Oral had a Eureka moment, according to his wife.
She recalled: "He just came in and said, 'We've done it!' and the sorrel was in one hand and the seed was in the other. I just couldn't believe it, and we went outside, and he showed me the machine."
The Turners have since been taking steps to get a Jamaican patent for their invention, which was built from stuff found around the house. He has also been in touch with the United States of America patent office.