Cultivating & harvesting
The cultivation of Aloe is influenced by a number of factors. Approximately 95% of the gel consists of water,
therefore sufficient irrigation is required in good climatical conditions. Due to plants very small and shallow root base, has a limited capacity to absorb water and nutrients, therefore irrigation must be well designed and the soil properly fertilized.The advantage of growing Aloe is that the plant is resistant to all diseases, fungi, pests, locusts and grasshoppers. Additionally, the plant is not edible for animals such as goats, because of the bitter taste and laxative effects.
After the plants initial deployment phase and growth, the plant can be harvested 3 to 4 times a year.
When harvesting, the bottom (largest) leaves have to be cut, on average this means 6 to 9 leaves per plant.
A good leaf weighs between 700 and 900 grams each, preferably more. Harvesting is a manual process.
Plot management is crucial to control and maximize the yield of the plantation.
After transport to the factory, the plants have to be washed and desinfected. There are two basic methods
of processing: processing the entire leaf including the shell containing aloin (1- whole leaf method) and
separating the leaf from the gel before processing (2- separation method). The Whole Leaf method leads,
in our opinion, to an unacceptable finished product of low quality gel.
In the separation method the bottom of the leaf is cut off and the leaves are left to "bleed".
This leads to the aloin leaking out of the leaves. This is the part of the plant known for its bitter taste and
its laxative effect. For a quality product, it is important that the aloin is kept out of the final gel.
After some time of leaking, the process continues by cutting off the prickly edges with a sharp knife or
a cheese grater type instrument.
After bleeding and the preparation process, we use the AGS machine for separating the gel from the leaf.
The AGS machine is the most effective way of extracting the gel from the leaf.
After the gel is removed from the plants it needs to be filtered, homogenized, pasteurized and stabilized.
Through these processes, the gel changes from a transparent colour to a honey brown colour.
The last step is then to concentrate the gel. The process from - cutting the leaves and the final Aloe extract -
needs to be completed within a maximum of 2 days. Quality loss in the process can occur in a number of ways.
The most important reasons are poor quality of leaves and poor or slow processing.
Overall the following steps should be followed:
- extracting Aloe gel from the leaves;
- filtration, homogenization, pasteurization and stabilization of the extracted Aloe gel;
- concentrating the Aloe gel.
The result is a stabilized Aloe gel which is ready for use or further processing like concentrating a liquid or making a powder.