ARS scientists have developed a mechanical harvester designed to harvest tree fruits for fresh market use, with minimal or no fruit damage. A driver seated at the rear of the self-propelled harvester uses joysticks to position an impactor perpendicular to the main scaffold limbs. When activated, the impactor snaps the branch, which detaches the fruit that falls to a "soft" catching/ collecting system that places the fruit into a bin. The harvester works well with trees trained to a "Y" trellis, or with trees having main scaffold branches trained in a fairly uniform inclined-orientation. Presently, there are no commercial mechanical tree fruit harvesters capable of harvesting fresh market quality fruit. Other commercial harvesters cause considerable damage to fruit during picking. The harvester works well with apple and cherry trees, and may have potential for pears. Approximately $60,000 and $50,000 a year are required to harvest fresh market quality apples and sweet cherries, respectfully. This invention could save 25-50 percent in harvest costs for these industries.
Apple and cherry growers will benefit from commercialization of this product by increasing worker productivity and lower harvest costs. Companies engaged in agricultural equipment manufacturing and design could use this technology.
Please refer to USPN 6,442,920 (Docket #0166.00), "Mechanical Harvester for Tree Fruits," which issued on September 3, 2002. Foreign rights are not available.
Innovative Fruit Production
Improvement and Protection
Kearneysville, West Virginia 25430-9425
(Same as first inventor)