The secret is using the best of nature and science to ensure the most effective crop yields
Before plants are put in the rich organic soil at Nutrilite Rancho El Petacal Farm in Mexico, they are studied by Anacleto Sosa, an R&D scientist who runs the farm’s “test garden.”
Sosa’s job is to combine the best of nature and science by experimenting with different types of botanicals, growing methods and seeds to ensure the most effective crop yields. One way he does this is by collecting samples from his garden, studying them and then sending them off to Amway labs in Buena Park, Calif. and Ada, Mich. for further analysis.
“Currently we have a running certification (program) with high standards, so when we produce products we can be sure that we are achieving high, high quality,” Sosa said.
There have been key discoveries the staff has made in recent years that are enhancing how produce is harvested, as well as expanding the variety of crops grown on the certified organic farm. Many of the ingredients — from spinach to oranges — that go into Nutrilite brand products are grown on the sprawling 1,589 acres (643 hectares) near the base of Mt. Petacal in Mexico’s southwestern region.
Perfecting the drying process
A key part of harvesting plants is the cleaning and drying process. Every crop has an ideal temperature at which to dry, Sosa says.
Spinach is dried at 70 Celsius (or 158 Fahrenheit) degrees, while rosemary dries in the field because the temperature needs to be a cooler 40 Celsius (or 104 Fahrenheit) degrees. Any warmer and the active ingredient is lost.
It took four years for Sosa’s team to discover the best way to grow and harvest rosemary by identifying the ideal conditions. After extensive research and testing, rosemary will be grown on a large-scale on the farm in 2019.
“Now we are very happy because we achieved the vertical integration of rosemary,” Sosa said.
Vertical integration of a crop means the company controls the entire supply chain process from seed to supplement. This is critical for Nutrilite because it means that every high standard of quality is met.
Developing new varieties
The farm has different focuses of research. One is to develop new agronomic practices that will increase the yield and quality of the crops. Another is to identify new active ingredients that can be used in Nutrilite supplements and vitamins.
Sosa’s team recently developed a new variety of the chia seed, named Rehnborg after Nutrilite Founder Carl Rehnborg. Nutrilite is patenting the Rehnborg variety around the world.
Why is this big discovery of a new variety important?
The Rehnborg variety of this superfood has a high content of Omega-3 and protein. White chia is being crossed with a traditional variety of chia, which is susceptible to diseases and fungus. Crossing the two varieties is creating a new version that is highly resistant to diseases.
Field experiments are key
Sosa has indoor and outdoor research areas. In the lab’s chamber, he works with plants that are difficult to grow in the fields. This indoor space can mimic every climate condition by controlling temperature and humidity.
His outdoor lab is a field where he evaluates organic fertilizers and pesticides on different varieties of plants for effectiveness. This is where Sosa is conducting an experiment evaluating different chia varieties, comparing the Rehnborg variety to traditional Mexican versions.
“We are conducting different experiments for vertical integration. You see, every row is a different variety,” Sosa said.
There are rows of chamomile and rosemary varieties that are being studied. Through this research, his team discovered the best conditions for growing rosemary and concluded the optimum time to harvest the plant is in May when the nutrients are at their highest.
Sosa’s team is one example of how Nutrilite scientists and engineers are continuously working to develop new formulations, products, and processing methods to ensure products have the purest ingredients and are manufactured in the safest way. This is part of the Nutrilite commitment to meeting the nutritional needs of customers around the world.