Aug 3, 2015
The Future of Farming: Over-the-row cherry harvester

Farmers have the same goal: harvest the highest quality fruit in the most efficient way. When it comes to cherries, it’s not the easiest task, but the way the fruit is picked continues to evolve.

Don and Jan Kiessel, cherry growers in Traverse City, Michigan, have experienced it all: hand pickers, shaker harvesters and more. Last week they may have experienced harvesting of the future.

Here’s more from the Traverse City Record Eagle:

The Kiessels may have seen the cherry harvester of the future one evening last week at the Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Station, where researchers used a modified blueberry harvester developed by the Littau Harvester company to collect the tart, red fruit.

The harvester was manned by a driver who sits above the canopy, directing the machine over the row of trees. Vibrating tines tickled cherries off the branches, then fruit traveled through a conveyor system and into a bin. The machine moved continuously through the orchard at about 1 mph.

It was a different process than “shaking,”the method used to clear most northwest Michigan cherry orchards of fruit. Shaker machines stop at each individual tree, vigorously vibrating the fruit loose and collecting it in bins of water.

Shakers are big, so farmers have to plant cherry trees at least 15 feet apart to accommodate them. Shakers can only shake one tree at a time, which adds time and cost to the harvest.

Switching to over-the-row harvesting would mean farmers have to plant smaller trees closer together. Transitioning could be expensive and time consuming, but smaller trees could be harvested younger and more trees could fit in an acre.

“The whole system’s got to change,”said Nikki Rothwell, research center coordinator. “That’s what is potentially groundbreaking about this.”

What do you think? Are over-the-row cherry harvesters the future of farming?

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