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Most of the fruit produced in South Africa are destined for export – a market in which external appearance is almost as important as internal quality, i.e. taste.

The internal quality of the fruit determines whether it will be of good eating quality when it arrives at its destination in Europe, the US and the East, and is thus of the utmost importance. However, its external appearance will play an equally important role in marketing (the final step in the export process).

One of the biggest headaches that farmers have to deal with is that each and every piece of fruit must be picked by hand. Can this cumbersome process be made easier and thus increase productivity?

Various approaches, such as picking platforms and bin-on-ground systems, are in the process of being trialled in all parts of the country. One aspect that cannot be ignored is that orchard design plays a crucial role (but more about that later).
picking platformThe Hercules picking platform range from Orchard Agrimek is designed for continual harvesting. Forks at the front and back ensures that bins can be lifted while driving. This also means that the workers can harvest without interruption. The platform has an important feature: anybody can harvest while standing on the platform.

Traditionally, only the stronger and younger workers were assigned to harvest using a picking ladder. The platform enables less strong people to take part in in harvesting, which means that more members from one family can work during the harvest season and earn an income.

The OSAM BL5 self-loading bin, with hydraulic rollers, can be used in conjunction with the platform to off-load up to 10 empty bins in the orchard rows and at the same time transport five filled bins to the loading dock. (This is known as the bin-on-ground system.) With this system, fewer tractors and bin trains will be necessary, and workers will not have to walk long distances to empty their harvest bags.

When used together, these innovations lead to a much more productive harvest programme. On farms that have implemented the system, an increase of up to 50 % have been reported by the delighted farmers.

The platform can also be used during the pruning season to facilitate and speed up the pruning process.

When planning and planting up new orchards, farmers should keep mechanisation in mind. Row widths, plant spacing and a level soil surface will play a big role when doing so.

Hercules Picking Platform 1

Hercules Picking Platform 2

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