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Mechanical Fruit Picker Roundup
In the past fruit growers relied on labor to handpick fruit for the fresh fruit market. High labor costs and the challenge of finding workers have growers turning to mechanical harvesters instead. Several manufacturers have introduced equipment that promises to pick fruit gently and efficiently. Itís estimated that one mechanical picker with a crew of four can do as much work as 80 hand-pickers.
  Here are a few of the fresh fruit harvesters we found on the market.

  Oxbo International manufactures equipment for many niche agricultural products and worked with Washington state researchers on developing surfaces to reduce bruised fruit. They sell SoftSurface kits that are suspended and fit on existing and new machines. www.oxbocorp.com
The Fulcrum Fresh Harvester, made by A&B Packing Equipment in Lawrence, Mich., features a wide 63-in. opening to minimize loss as the fruit goes into a tunnel. They say that with its design with horizontal rotary heads, and guide rails that lower the bush close to the sloped, padded harvesting beds for minimal drop makes it the ďmost gentle harvester available today.Ē However, unlike other harvesters that have overhead platforms to pack lugs, separate wagons are needed to pile the lugs of fruit. www.abpacking.com
  Littau Harvester, Stayton, Ore., has more than 2,500 of its berry harvesters sold to producers throughout the world. The company tests equipment on its own farm and developed the True Orbit shaker head, with tines that twirl to create less shock on the plants and angled catch surfaces that reduce losses to 5 percent or less. With adjustable features itís versatile for a wide variety of fruits. www.littauharvester.com.
  A couple of overseas companies have other ideas for equipment. BSK of Serbia uses blasts of air to pick fruit with the Kokan, a tow-behind harvester that doesnít have contact with the plants or bushes. With easy adjustments for the pulsating air jets velocity and frequency, and pneumatic pillows for soft landing, it can be used on a variety of fresh fruits. www.airharvesters.com
  The Harvy 500, manufactured by FineField of the Netherlands, utilizes bendable brushes and workers who shake the blueberry bushes to drop the ripe fruit into a conveyor system that includes air to blow out debris before the berries fall gently into lugs and crates. Plans were to test them in British Columbia this year. www.finefield.nl



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2018 - Volume #42, Issue #2