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The English Apple Man


23rd Sep 2022 - Harvest systems

As apple harvest gains momentum, The English Apple Man highlights the changes in harvesting systems


The picture is of Cherries being picked circa 100 + years ago, but even 60 years ago, when I was in my 'late teens' when apple trees were much, much bigger, some 25ft tall, wooden ladders were integral to the mode of picking.


We picked in those days with a canvas bag on our back, placing the picked fruit into the bag carefully to avoid bruising. The system was tiring and required great care. Once the bag was full, we would make our way to empty the bag, using our hands/arms to keep the bag clear of our body, or damage could/would occur!


The next task, emptying the contents of the bag (20-30lb of fruit) into boxes without damaging them!


The process meant we spent a large amount of time moving ladders, climbing 'up & down' ladders and walking carefully from tree to boxes before emptying 'slowly' with great care!



From the 1970's most growers were picking into plastic (cushioned) buckets into bulk bins which held approximately 600 lib or 300 kilos!



While the modus operandi still requires the human hand at the forefront of the operation, the changes rely much more on mechanical assistance,


Below: left; picking into a cushioned bucket and right; a standard bulk bin



Below: left; Picking train and right; Picking the higher apples a motorised platform



Below: A 'Pluk 0 Track' harvest machine and right; the Hermes version


Self propelled apple harvesters, have been used on the Continent (Dutch, Belgian & Italian growers in particular) since the 1970's and we in the UK have been much slower to change. Picking trains caught on over the last 25 years, but only in the last 10 have machines like 'Pluk o Track, and Hermes made an inroad.



With the pressure on finding enough harvest labour in the last few years, many growers are buying harvesters.



Click on: REVO apple harvester in action



There are many attempting to develop ROBOTIC apple harvester's and some are getting close


Sadly the ABUNDANT system was very close and made commercial harvesting trials in New Zealand, but sadly ran ot of money!


Click on: Vacuum assisted hand picking


Click on: FF Robotics apple harvester


Once harvested apples must be stored in modern Controlled Atmosphere stores see Below LINK to AC Goahams new storage complex at Swanton Farm


Click on: AC Goatham's New Storage complex


That is all for this week


Take care


The English Apple Man