Good Fruit Grower

March 15

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 28 of 47 Good Fruit Grower MARCH 15, 2016 29 avoid damaging or dislodging the target fruit, adjacent fruit or part of the tree in ways that a grasping machine might. The suction fl ow is intended to pull the apple to the nozzle, separate it from the tree and pass it through the nozzle to a conveyor. The nozzles are like cartridges, coming in multiple sizes to harvest varying sizes of fruit, though the size range of a single cartridge is pretty wide, and growers are unlikely to need to swap it out within a block or even an entire orchard, Salisbury said. Currently, the system can pitch to about 45 degrees to match the angle of a trellis and has a vertical range of about 4 to 5 feet. The vision is to have one machine picking high and another pick- ing low from the same moving platform, Salisbury said. "We're hoping the tractor driver is just putting it in low gear and he's not even looking back," he said. Dan Steere, an SRI consultant working with Salisbury on the project, said it's clear that growers are considering trel- lises because it's by far the most effi cient production system. In terms of mechani- cally automating harvest, a trellis system is going to be important for growers, but what kind of trellis remains to be seen, he said. "As far as recommendations to grow- ers to prepare for automation, we're not in a position to offer those yet," he told Good Fruit Grower. "It's important for us to learn from world-class producers, world-class experts, so Washington is the ideal place to collaborate on this research." Getting results In 2015, the research centered on three areas: —Refi ning the nozzle design to reduce stem and spur pulls and to minimize damage to the apple. —Developing an ultra-compact decel- erator to slow down the apples upon exiting the vacuum tube for conveyance. —Integrating the picking vacuum on a commercial robot arm. PLAY A video showing how the vacuum-based picking machine targets apples, shown at far left, and then plucks them off the tree was shown during the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission's Annual Technology Review. Watch the video at "We're hoping the tractor driver is just putting it in low gear and he's not even looking back." —Curt Salisbury TJ MULLINAX/GOOD FRUIT GROWER Continued on page 31

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Good Fruit Grower - March 15