The company has pumped US$800,000 ($92 million) into the facility which will allow Red Stripe to begin production of its flagship beer with at least five per cent cassava by the end of the year. Over time, Red Stripe hopes to have up to 40 per cent of locally grown cassava replacing the imported barley that is used in the production of beer.
The brewing company has also secured a lease contract for an additional 250 acres of land at Wallen, St Catherine, bringing its total cassava farmland under production to 286 acres.
“We are in the first phase so the 14.2 hectares that we have planted along with the 20-root-tonne factory that is being installed as we speak, we would have spent for this first pilot about US$1.6 million,” Red Stripe’s managing director Cedric Blair stated at the lease-signing agreement with the Agro-Invest Corporation yesterday.
The processing plant which will be located at Red Stripe’s headquarters is roughly 250 square metres in size and can process cassava from approximately 1.25 acres of land in a day, meeting the company’s target of up to 300 acres per year. Ultimately, the company plans to have 2,500 acres of cassava under production in the next five years.
“We are demonstrating that we can get this done. Once we go up to 2,000 acres of production, we will need to add an additional 200-root-tonne factory somewhere else in the country, which we will operate,” Blair stated.
He added that the expansion is not without expenditure, as Red Stripe will accumulate costs of over US$1 billion in putting the project together.
“Once we have the plant up and running by the end of April, we are going to train an additional 30 young adults to work on the farm in Wallen. Most of those young adults will come from the neighbouring communities,” he said.
After cultivation of the cassava for nine months, the first phase of the production begins with a field test to determine the starch content and the adequacy for reaping.
On a tour of the Bernard Lodge farm, Red Stripe told the Jamaica Observer that a mechanical harvester will be used to uproot the roots of the cassava, after which the stick portion will be cut off and the cassava will be transported back to its headquarters.
The cassava will then be placed on a scale and placed in silos. From there, water and a mechanical agitator will be used to process the cassava.
The roots will then go through a rasping (grating) phase, after which a wet extraction will be done. The process involves the repeated washing of the cassava and putting it through a series of hydro sieves where the starch precipitates out of the product.
The product is then continuously dried using a sieve and cyclone and then scraped and placed in a fluidised bed drier, which is a hot stream of dry air, to dry the wet starch to a starch powder.
The powder will then be used in the production of beer.