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Harvest Platforms Speed Apple Picking
The Flow Thru Harvester (FTH) and the Hi Lift Bin Hauler from Precision Manufacturing are designed to speed harvest in orchards of 200 acres and less, in particular for those that have shifted production to high density planting.
“Our platforms are designed for smaller orchards, farm-to-market, and pick-your-own operations,” says Mario VanDyke, Precise Manufacturing. “They make it easier to recruit labor and increase picker efficiency.”
The self-propelled FTH is designed to pick up crates partially filled by ground-level pickers. As it moves down the row, bins are gradually carried up an incline. As many as 8 pickers can stand on platforms at multiple elevations, gathering apples at up to the full 13-ft. tree heights. Bag holders beside each picker let them concentrate on picking. Once filled, the bags are quickly dumped into the nearest crate. When the bin at the highest level is full, the operator lowers it to the ground, making room for the next bin.
The 5-ft., 4-in. wide FTH expands to a 10-ft., 4-in. width when picker platforms are fully extended. The work stations are flexible with moveable railings, foot pedals and controls.
If the $65,000 price is too much for smaller orchards, VanDyke offers a simpler picking platform. The $15,000 Hi Lift Bin Carrier is towed by a tractor that supplies the hydraulic lift. With its picker platforms, it is a step up from the company’s bin haulers designed to place and remove bins from the field. Those bin haulers are also tractor pulled (or pushed). Available in 3, 4 and 5-bin models, they start at $8,900.
Empty bins are loaded before entering the orchard. Once bins are filled, the carrier leaves the field and returns with more empty bins.
“Starting out within 3 in. of the ground, the carrier raises bins and picking platforms to allow picking 12 to 13-ft. trees,” explains VanDyke. “We have one customer who has 2 units. As one set of bins is filled, the second is there with a fresh set of empties.”
The current system requires an operator on the tractor; however, VanDyke hopes to have a remote control unit on the tractor for next season. Giving control of the tractor to a picker on the carrier is just the first step.
VanDyke notes that the Hi Lift Bin Carrier requires only 25 hp. motive power. Eventually, it may have a dedicated power unit on tracks to power it through orchards.
Both the FTH and the Hi Lift carrier are designed for apple harvest. However, VanDyke points out year-round potential use, especially for the 4-WD FTH. Jobs include hand thinning, trellis work, pulling wire and hanging pheromones.
“We have pick-your-own operators who like to use the Hi Lift Bin Carrier,” says VanDyke. “They pick the apples higher in the trees to discourage pick-your-own customers from climbing into trees and breaking branches.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Precise Manufacturing, Inc., 188 North Main St., Casnovia, Mich. 49318 (ph 616 887-7000 or 616 515-6100; info@precisemanufacturing.com; www.precisemanufacturing.com).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #1