Medicinal plants have numerous benefits for human life. Medicinal plant is one of the ingredients to make traditional and modern medicines. In general, there are several stages in processing medicinal plants into medicine, namely sorting, washing, drying, storing and processing. The drying stage is the main process, therefore in-depth research is required before its application.

Acting Head of Agroindustrial Technology Center (PTA) of the Research Organization for the Assessment and Application of Technology (OR PPT) – National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) Arief Ariyanto in his welcoming remark said that Indonesia with its diversity of agricultural cultivation products requires special post-harvest handling. According to him, the position of agro-industrial technology in the agricultural chain/cycle is between cultivation and harvested products.

“Research on herbal plants is intended to support the herbal industry so that these plants can be used as the raw materials for agro-industry. The extent of loss of quantity and quality from the results of wrong post-harvest process in Indonesia can reach 20-30%, a quite large amount,” he explained. “A right, proper and appropriate postharvest process may help increase the availability of agro raw materials,” said Arief.

Arief added that improvement in term of good, proper and appropriate postharvest technology will create quality raw materials that can support subsequent productions. “This will produce quality raw materials to support further production,” he added.

Drying of medicinal plants is one of postharvest processes. Medicinal plants are processed to extract their properties, namely active compounds contained in the plants. These active compounds certainly should not be lost in the post-harvest process.

“Drying medicinal plants is the main process in producing medicinal plant simplicia. The goal is to meet the water content requirements and extend the shelf life. Simplicia is a natural ingredient that is used as an ingredient for making drugs that have not undergone further processing,” he explained.

In Indonesia, the process of drying medicinal plants is still done by drying these plants on a vacant land. The area is exposed to sunlight so it is prone to contamination and direct exposure to ultraviolet light. Excessive heat is very likely that will cause the active compounds to reduce.

Smart Drying Technology

Based on this, postharvest technological innovations for medicinal plants are made using smart drying-based greenhouses. Medicinal plants greatly depend on their quality, namely the active compounds, to meet the requirements of water content of below 10%. Medicinal plants that have not been dried have high water content of about 80-90%. Each medicinal plant has its best conditions for the drying process.

PTA researcher Lamhot Parulian said drying medicinal plants is quite difficult in practice. Excessive drying (over drying) can cause the active compounds in the simplicia to decrease or even disappear. While, incomplete drying causes failure to meet the requirement for simplicia water content  (<10%) which results in the growth of microbes and fungi that damage the product.

Lamhot also explained that the smart drying technology has been developed since 2012 by the Ministry of Health when Type One dryer was made. In 2021, Type Two dryer was developed with smart features that can make the temperature and humidity remain stable according to the desired setting, in addition to additional heat from the gas.

“Smart drying technology has been applied in four locations in which the Medicinal Plant Post-Harvest Processing Center (P4TO) has offices, namely Pekalongan, Tegal, Malang and Tabanan Bali,” he said. “Smart drying is built in a greenhouse of approximately 5 x 8 meters in area with a capacity of 600 kg of medicinal plants,” he said. He further said that in the future this technology will be updated with addition of library settings and optimization of the blower position so that the heat generated is evenly distributed. (ir, sj/ ed: drs)