There are many ways to wash root crops on produce farms. This guide covers a range of options from smaller farms washing by hand to larger operations with fully automated wash lines. 

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Spray tables

Jill Kopel of New Leaf Organics (Bristol, VT) washing carrots on her homemade spray table.

Spray tables are commonly used to rinse bunched produce or crops with relatively high soil load. They are typically made from a porous horizontal material supported by a framed structure. A very common approach is to use 2×4 lumber for framing and either hardware cloth or welded wire fencing stapled to the top. In this blog post we list several different options for spray table materials that are more durable and easier to clean. 

Cost: 0-$100

Capacity: 150 bunches/hr

DIY: Low Pressure Hands-Free Bunch Washing

Farmer Jesse shares a hands-free sprayer from Rough Draft Farmstead (Lawrenceburg, KY) which can be assembled cheaply with (mostly) basic plumbing supplies in the video below. 

Cost: $100

Capacity: 600 Bunches/hr

DIY: The Bucket Bunch Washer

Sisters Hill Farm (Standfordville, NY) shares this custom setup for cleaning bunched carrots and beets in the video below.  This approaches uses an electric pressure washer, a 5 gallon bucket, spray nozzles, and a foot pedal to easily rinse off pre-bunched roots from all sides.. It’s at least twice as fast and saves water compared to a traditional hose. 

Cost: 0-$100

Capacity: 600 Bunches/hr

DIY: Barrel Washer

John Hirsh of Clearfield Farm (Granville, VT) made his own small scale barrel washer. It can be operated by one person and has a smaller footprint than larger tumblers. The construction is based off of a harbor freight cement mixer and uses a bundle of furring strips and a bicycle rim. 

Learn more from the video: 

Cost: $100-200

Capacity: 300 lbs/hr

Taylor & Jake Mendell of Footprint Farm (Starksboro, VT) used Farm Hack Plans to build this barrel washer. No motor needed on this machine, just an old exercise bike and some motivation to turn the drum. 

Willsie Barrel Washer

The Willsie washer is a batch cleaning system designed to fit atop a bulk bin. It uses recirculated water from the tank below and turns the metal drum with an enclosed motor. 

Cost: $7,000-9,000 (~$800 shipping to VT)

Capacity: 1800 lbs/hr

Wooden Barrel Washer

Grindstone Barrel washers are a popular option for small scale farms.

The most common barrel washer used in the Northeast is Grindstone Farm’s barrel washer kit. These are available as kits or fully assembled for additional cost. 

Cost: $3,100-3,450

Capacity: 2,000 lbs/hr

This is a Grindstone kit that was modified to half the length to ease portability and take up less space in storage. 

Legs or Stands 

Legs or stands have to be custom made. Some use saw horses or cinder blocks when portability isn’t a priority. A few off the shelf options could include a 30” x 96” stainless sorting table which could be outfitted with a flush mount drain to collect the water keeping the floor much cleaner during use. 

If you have the space in your wash area for a permanent setup, one option is workbench legs which are available from industrial equipment suppliers. 

Common setups include the barrel washer, a sorting table, and a weighing and bagging area like they are doing at Root 5 Farm (Fairlee, VT)

See This Washer in Action At Mighty Food Farm (Shaftsbury, VT)

Electric Hoist Option

Paul Arnold of Pleasant Valley Farm (Argyle, NY) demonstrates the benefits of having their barrel washer hung via two electric hoists so they can easily adjust the height, slope and speed of the crops being washed. 
This is a completely custom built barrel washer mounted on a frame to move it around the farm. (Photo from Jason Andrzejewski)

Univerco Mini Barrel Washer

This batch style barrel washer is made with a stainless drum and supported on adjustable legs with wheels for ease of mobility.  Learn more on the Univerco website

Cost: $8,000

Capacity: 2,200 lbs/hr

Poly Barrel Washer

This Polycarbonate and stainless steel barrel washer is made by AZS Brusher.

Some growers have concerns about being able to adequately clean a wooden barrel washer. A polycarbonate root washer is an option. This one is produced by AZS Brush Washer (Ephrata, PA). The machines are available in both painted steel or full stainless steel (shown).

Cost: $6,000-8,000

Capacity: 2,000 lbs/hr

Polly Barrel Washer at Jericho Settlers Farm (Jericho, VT)

Univerco Bunch Washer / Rinse Conveyor

This conveyor is made up of 9 sets totalling 40  fixed, spray nozzles to hit bunched root crops (and more) at all sides. This unit runs on 110V AC and is built with stainless steel construction 

Cost: $18,200 (~$400 shipping to Vermont)

Capacity: 1,000 lbs/hr

For more information on this unit visit https://univerco.com/en/product/bunch-vegetable-washer/

Brush Washer

Root crops can be washed via a brush washer. These machines are generally considered hard to clean by growers and produce safety inspectors. 

Cost: $7,000-9,000

Capacity: 600 lbs/hr

Rinse Conveyor

The AZS Rinse Conveyor can be adjusted to wash a variety of crops from leafy greens, bunched roots, or loose crops. It has 3 stages of action to clean produce. 1. High volume rinse. 2. High-pressure spray. 3. Final rinse. You can read more about this machine in this blog post

Cost: $9,000 (16” wide) $12,200 (24” wide)

Capacity: 1,000 lbs/hr

This machine can be adjusted to work well for a variety of crops head lettuce, bunched crops or bulk roots. (David Paulk, Sassafras Creek Farm, MD)
The rince conveyor is often paired with a round sorting table, this additionally has another conveyor to increase capacity at the end of the line.

Steel Barrel Washer

This large steel barrel washer is designed for many years of high throughput.

Some growers seek increased durability and cleanability through steel root washers. Typically these are custom built and are included as part of a larger wash line.

Cost: $10,000-20,000

Capacity: 2,000-3,000 lbs/hr

Destoner

Some barrel washers have integrated “trash” and product conveyors separate the mud, stones and product continuously.

Some manufacturers of larger scale root crop wash lines call these tumblers destoners. A bulk bin gets dumped into a tank, and the mud and stones that are present after mechanically harvesting settle to the bottom and are removed via a conveyor. 

Cost: $20,000-30,000

Capacity: 3,000 lbs/hr

Complete Wash lines

Often root washers are one part of  a larger wash line with bin unloaders, soak tanks, barrel washers, conveyors, sizers, sorting tables, baggers, etc. 

There are several manufacturers that put together complete wash lines including: 

Allround Vegetable Processing (India)

Automated Produce Equipment (Marietta, Georgia)

AZS (Ephrata, Pennsylvania)
821 Crooked Ln, Ephrata, PA 17522
(717) 733-2584

Duijndam Machines (The Netherlands)

Kronen (Germany)

Univerco (Napierville, Quebec)

Sormac (The Netherlands)

Spiessens (Belgium)

Wyma (New Zeland) 

This Univerco wash line is designed for large operations.

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