Good Fruit Grower

November 2011

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Page 9 of 47

New Technology & Labor Picker and platform A orchards, but its arrival in Washington State at the end of September marked the start of machine's first trials in large-scale West Coast orchards. The machine is a combination of machinery fabrication know-how After harvest, the picking apparatus on the Michigan machine can be replaced with a platform for other types of orchard work. by Melissa Hansen and farmer ingenuity. Phil Brown of Phil Brown Welding in Conklin, Michigan, came up with the original concept. Michigan fruit growers Mike Rasch and Chuck Dietrich joined with Brown to commercialize the harvester under the name DBR Conveyor Concepts. Both Brown and Rasch demonstrated the harvester in a Washington research orchard during a late-September technology field day sponsored by Washington State Uni- versity. After the field demonstration, WSU Extension spe- cialist Karen Lewis took charge of the machine, testing it in a variety of Washington orchards. The harvester is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded project Comprehensive Automa- tion for Specialty Crops. The Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission is also funding the harvester project. Lewis is evaluating the machine for fruit qual- ity and bruising, along with other attributes, like picker efficiencies. Bruis- ing that could occur from harvesting machines has been a concern of growers. She also hopes to test the machine under nighttime harvest conditions. A different style apple harvester, devel- oped by Picker Technologies, is under evaluation by the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission (see "Picker and sorter" on page 11). Farmer friendly After testing in Pennsylvania and Michigan orchards last year, the DBR apple harvester underwent several changes to make it more farmer friendly, Brown said during the field day demon- stration. The Washington unit is pulled by a tractor, to save the expense of a self- propelled machine, and runs off the trac- tor's PTO hydraulics. The four-worker platform can be adjusted to fit 9- to 14- foot-wide row spacings. Units developed (Continued on page 12) 10 NOVEMBER 2011 GOOD FRUIT GROWER n apple harvest prototype machine that's part of a national research effort to automate specialty crop production was put to test in Pacific Northwest orchards during the 2011 harvest. The vacuum system apple harvester, designed by Michigan's DBR Conveyor Concepts, has been tested in eastern U.S. Top: A four-person picking crew can have two on the ground or all four on the platform, but each pick into their own tube. Bottom: Mike Rasch (with microphone) describes how the apple harvester works as Phil Brown makes adjustments on the platform. melissa hansen melissa hansen

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