Canada: Fruit-picking machine unveiled

A mechanical apple harvesting aid that could save growers more than 35% on labour costs made its debut in Chatham-Kent Tuesday.

The $80,000 machine, manufactured in Spain, attracted the attention of several fruit farmers from the Cedar Springs area as well as from neighbouring Essex County.

Werner Zurbuchen of Tazu Technology Fruit and Farm Equipment of Waterford, said the machines are in widespread use in Europe and South America.

He said the fruit-picking machines with conveyor belts represent the most modern and technically advanced system available in the industry.

"It doesn't eliminate hand picking,'' he said. "But no baskets or ladders are required in the orchard.''

Once apples are picked by hand they are placed on the machine's belts, which in turn deliver them to large plastic boxes on the rear of the machine. From there they are offloaded onto wagons.

Zurbuchen said the original idea for the machines came from Holland.

Don Thompson of Thompson Orchards, who hosted the open house for the machine demonstration, said he was "impressed with its capabilities.

"We had a good turnout of apple growers,'' he said. "I'm not sure if anyone plans to invest in one right away, but it's opened a lot of eyes.''

Thompson said labour costs represent a major portion of the costs associated with the apple industry.


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