Good Fruit Grower

April 1

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G rowers in Washington and Michigan have been experimenting with harvest-assist equip- ment with the goal of being the employers of choice for a shrinking labor pool. Last season, three growing operations used three different systems. Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce in Sparta, Michigan, tested the DBR system with a view to making the company more attractive as an employer and making employees more productive. The growing, packing, and sales organization sells more than a third of Michigan's fresh apple production. "We want to make sure that when we get down to competing neighbor against neighbor, we're the ones that the labor force is going to look to," he said during a panel discussion at the Washington State Horticultural Association's annual meeting last December. Stemilt Ag Services, based in Wenatchee, Washington, used two Van Doren Sales/Littau mechanical assist plat- forms at a 40-acre orchard in Quincy last season. Farm manager Justin Whitman said Stemilt's main reason for trying harvest-assist technology is to increase efficiency. The company is interested in the potential for harvesting at night and wants to reduce the use of lad- ders both to reduce fruit bruising and to avoid the risk of worker injuries. Mike Van Pelt at Green Acres Farms in White Swan, Washington, chose the Bandit Xpress harvesting sys- tem from Automated Ag Systems after assessing many other options. Equipment he had looked at in Italy, for example, seemed best adapted to very small orchards. Over the last five years, the labor pool has been stagnant, Van Pelt noted. At the same time, more high- density orchards are being planted that will generate high yields per acre. "With less people, it can't get done," he said. "We want to get more done with the same amount of people." Riveridge Armock said he chose the DBR system because he knows the people in Michigan who developed it and had tested it for the two previous seasons. He negotiated an agreement whereby he used the system last season at no cost but provided the manufacturers with feedback on how it operated and all the data that would be important to a grower. Some workers were reluctant to get on the machine at first and it took a while to get them up to speed. But once they got used to it, many of the pickers wanted to do a night shift on the machine as well, because they didn't 28 APRIL 1, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Orchard Equipment Pest-Effective: • Season-long mating disruption • More starting active ingredient • 20% more pheromone released during the growing season Cost-Effective: • Season-long control with one application • Hand-application costs cut in half; no labor-intensive twist-ons • Minimal regulation • No harm to beneficial insects • No girdling losses Consistent, Season-Long Codling Moth Control NoMate ® CM Spiral is superior by design and performance for codling moth mating disruption in apple and pear orchards. No competing product goes on more easily, works harder, or gets better results. NoMate® CM Spiral is designed, manufactured, and supported in the United States by Scentry Biologicals, Inc., maker of the first pheromone-based product approved by the U.S. EPA. 610 Central Avenue Billings, MT 59102 (406) 248-5856 1-800-735-5323 Slip-on NoMate® CM spirals consistently release volatilizing solid-matrix pheromone through flexible PVC dispensers. Female moth scent plumes are overwhelmed, thwarting male moth mating efforts. For more information, call 1-800-735-5323 or visit Three apple producers look to mechanization to help deal with potential labor shortages. by Geraldine Warner ARE YOU the employer of CHOICE?

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