Good Fruit Grower

November 2013

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New Equipment & Technology Suck 'em up DBR harvester gets big commercial test at Riveridge Land. T by Richard Lehnert he vacuum-based apple harvester from DBR The machine looks somewhat Conveyor Concepts is getting a powerful field d ifferent this year. test this fall. It will be used to harvest about 70 Mirror-like metal canopies have been acres of apples, of several varieties, on Riveridge installed over the platforms where the Land near Sparta, Michigan. pickers stand while picking, offering Riveridge Land is part some protection from sun of an integrated business or rain and also providing headed by co-owner Don a reflecting surface for the Armock that includes River LED lights that have been idge Packing and Riveridge installed for nighttime Produce Marketing. operation. "We'll be able to monitor "We can actually do a —Mike Rasch the fruit from the orchard better job of spot picking through the packing house and see how our buyers with the LED lights at night," Rasch said. respond to it," Armock said. In the harsh light of day, apples on the In fact, he invited buyers to come to his orchard and shaded side looker darker than apples in the direct sun, see the machine operating. but the artificial light tends to even it out, he said. Mike Rasch, one of the machine's designers and the R The vacuum tubes on the machine are shorter. The in DBR, said this will be a real test of the harvester. "We'll machine in the Riveridge orchards is picking tops only. be able to track the apples through storage and see how "The machine is very efficient in this use," Rasch said. they pack out and grade," he said. The strategy is for workers on the ground to pick all the "Quality suffers when workers are on ladders." apples they can easily reach. "It's hard for our machine to improve their efficiency," Rasch said. "You can't get much better than that." These apples are picked into ordinary picking sacks and placed directly into bins, and the bins are hauled from the orchard before the machine comes in. No ladders Pear Trees on ® 7 97 OHxF 8 & Rootstocks * OHxF® 87 & 97* – Match your specific variety and orchard to one of these rootstocks for maximum results. *OHxF® 69 Rootstock Shown Patent Information Available Call today for more detailed information (800) 675-6075 • Newcastle, California ALMONDS • APRICOTS • ASIAN PEARS • CHERRIES PEARS • NECTARINES • FRESH MARKET PEACHES •WALNUTS 22 NOVEMBER 2013 Good Fruit Grower "We clean the tops," Rasch said. "We completely take ladders out of the orchard. And the workers can pick both sides of the tree at the top, so we pick two rows at a time and need to go only down alternate rows." Without ladders, crews can pick two to three more bins a day, he said, boosting their daily production to about 15 bins for two pickers. "Quality suffers when workers are on adders," he added. l Justin Finkler, the operations manager at Riveridge Land, said they ran a test in which two workers picking from the ground only were able to pick up to 15 bins a day, which those working from the ground and with ladders typically did eight to ten. "Without ladders, workers can probably pick two to three more bins each a day," he said, and had plans to test that. Good Fruit Grower watched the harvester, in both day and nighttime action, picking high-density Lindamac McIntosh in their fourth leaf on Malling 9 rootstocks in 11-foot rows. The machine fit well between rows. The workers on the platforms were removing apples from about eight feet of tree height, from six feet to the top. The workers easily moved the platform up and down so they could pick the apples at a convenient chest height. Two workers on each platform worked in rhythm and there was no conflict about what height the platform should be at. The machine was being pulled by a tractor controlled by one of the workers on the platform. Phil Brown, the B in DBR and the builder of the machine, said plans were being made to mount the harvester on the hydrostatic work platform his company, Phil Brown Welding, now sells quite successfully. Removing the tractor and hitch will cut 20 feet off the overall length and give it a shorter turning radius at the row ends. It will also be joystick controlled. The harvester unit will not be permanently fixed on the platform, so the platform can be used for pruning, thinning, and other work in other seasons. Finkler said the company already has two Phil Brown platforms used for other-than-harvest work. The operation includes 700 acres of fruit, mostly apples but some sweet cherries.

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