Good Fruit Grower

December 2013

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atch a demonstration of De Kleine's device at W "I could not have written a better description of what I wanted to do," he said. Now starting his third academic year at WSU, De Kleine has finished his coursework for his doctorate and plans to graduate in the spring of 2014. For his dissertation, he is testing three harvesting techniques that are at the proof-of-concept stage. He's taken a practical approach. "There may be a million-dollar machine to do something, but if it's not in every single field, I think it's not a solution," he said. "Economics would say you have to have a certain number of acres to make it affordable, so anyone who has less than that doesn't get the benefit of the solution." That's why he's focusing on improving what a human can do. He started by studying how apples are picked by hand and noticed that a worker twists the apple to detach the stem from the tree. He set about building a handheld device to mimic that twist, using off-the-shelf parts including parts of drills and rubber wheels from a remote-control car. When placed around an apple, the wheels can be moved either clockwise or counterclockwise and at different speeds to twist the fruit. It's designed to be used with trellised trees forming a fruiting wall, where the fruit are stable and accessible. He is doing experiments to see if the apples fall with or without stems and if there's the risk of removing spurs along with the fruit. De Kleine envisions that, in a commercial setting, the device would need more wheels or even rotating cylinders to allow workers to pick multiple fruit at a time. He's also doing experiments with a Milwaukee Sawzall, which graduate students at the Center for Precision Agriculture have adapted for cherry harvesting by fitting it with an end effector that can shake a trunk or limb with an in-and-out motion of 3,200 strokes per minute. De Kleine is looking at the potential for using this tool to harvest apples. Another device he developed is also designed to shake the trunk or branch of a tree to remove the fruit. The end effector, which fits around the trunk or branch, consists of a dual motor actuator, which has two eccentrics that can rotate in either clockwise or counterclockwise directions and at different speeds. This allows the user to strategically create, and apply, an infinite number of rhythmic patterned movements, rather than being limited to a back-and-forth motion. All these methods would require catch frames to collect the fruit. He is also exploring the use of non-Newtonian, shear-thickening fluid surfaces that could cushion the apples when they fall in order to minimize bruising. Last year, he demonstrated the concept for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) students by using a surface of cornstarch and water that thickens temporarily with the force of a falling apple. De Kleine, 33, hopes to keep working in agriculture and academics after he completes his doctorate and wants to get a harvesting solution into the hands of growers. "Agriculture isn't a fad," he said. "It's something that's always been here. It's my passion. It's a privilege for me to be out here contributing and helping as much as I can." • De Kleine received WSU's William R. Wiley Research Exposition award this year in the Agricultural and Natural Sciences poster category. The award recognizes students for exemplary scholarship and research. See us in Wenatchee, Washington, December 2–4, 2013, at the Washington State Horticultural Show, for all your equipment needs. REAR-MOUNT PUMP MODEL SPRAYERS • Versatility • Reliability • Flexibility TurboSteer Hitch Custom order to YOUR specifications out b Ask ang your • Electrical ball valve nagi ram with ma rog controls with pressure p t sprayhe Tee Je t r adjust onito M • 250, 300, 400, 500, and 600 gallon tanks • Diaphragm or centrifugal pumps "Serving Area Farmers available Since 1939" • Adjustable air delivery system • Narrow versions available 1308 East Mead • TurboSteer available YAKIMA, WA • Tee Jet spray monitor available 509-457-8105 "Your Ag Equipment Specialist" 800-827-5138 QUALITY SERVICE QUALITY PARTS 927 Wenatchee Ave WENATCHEE, WA 509-888-0355 GOOD FRUIT GROWER DECEMBER 2013 73

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