California startup Vinergy, Inc. is powering change in industry, beginning with new technology applications that could improve the profitability of table grape farms nearly 40 percent.
The Vinergy Cart and Vinergy Wheelbarrow from Bakersfield, California startup Vinergy, Inc. are rechargeable electric implements that increase the amount of time grapes can be picked by significantly reducing the most time-consuming, labor-intensive and riskiest part of the harvest: transporting fruit from the vine to the end of the row.
Pickers lose an average of 7-10 minutes per trip down the grape row using such traditional picking methods. This means the average team of pickers loses 2 hours of picking time per day. Vinergy products allow pickers to consolidate and speed up trips thereby reducing labor costs, downtime and injuries.
For example, a standard eight-person crew can harvest about six boxes of table grapes per hour. During a normal day that crew could pick 192 boxes for an approximate labor cost of $4.33 per box.
With a capacity of 16 boxes, using the Vinergy Cart can significantly increase yield with a relatively small labor cost increase of just 12.5 percent, resulting in a labor cost of just $2.66 per box, a reduction of 38.6 percent. Real-world results have seen an average of $1.00 per box savings and as high as $2.30 per box.
“When we were picking significant volume we saw a tremendous cost savings during our trials with multiple crews and packing variations. Crews that were using traditional wheelbarrows were asking when they could begin using the Vinergy carts,” said Rope Eddy, Anthony Vineyards.
Vinergy Carts are pre-loaded with empty boxes by a cart operator. Pickers fill the boxes as the operator easily and safely moves the cart down each row with the touch of a button. Each cart is powered by a fully programmable, 36-volt electric motor with a continuous run time of 8-10 hours. A low center of gravity gives it a stable footing, even when fully loaded to its maximum capacity of 1,000 pounds.
Each cart rents for $820 per month including maintenance. Vinergy recommends 6 carts per crew and a dedicated operator for ideal efficiency.
“I am excited to have a collaborative relationship with growers as we apply innovative technology to help increase production and lower costs, not just for table grapes, but for blueberry and pepper growers too,” Justin Meng Vinergy Co-Founder.
Knowing labor costs are increasing sharply, Vinergy is looking toward an autonomous future. The company begins testing of a self-driving cart in October, in partnership with Danfoss Power Solutions. “We’re excited to partner with Vinergy to bring the PLUS+1® Autonomous Control Library technology and help growers meet the ever-increasing challenges surrounding global food supply,” says Peter Bleday, Director of Autonomous Business Development, Danfoss Power Solutions.