Submitted to: Transactions of the ASAE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 1, 1997
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Hand harvesting of blueberries is labor intensive, and the availability of a dependable labor force is a concern of the fruit industry. Commercial mechanical harvesters designed for processed blueberries do not yield quality required by the fresh market. A unique mechanical harvesting concept for blueberries was developed and tested. The harvester reduced fruit damage by 50% compared to commercial harvesters and substantially, reduces ground losses. Fruit selectivity was excellent, and cane damage was insignificant. The first commercial prototype was successfully tested in 1995, and commercial production slated for 1996. This will be the first mechanical harvester for any fruit crop that can consistently harvest fresh market quality fruit with long shelf life. Adoption of this harvesting concept on the 18,000 acres of blueberries raised for the fresh market will improve grower returns and insure high quality fruit for the consumer.
Technical Abstract: An experimental mechanical harvester was developed that utilizes an angled double-spiked-drum shaker, cane dividing and positioning system, and cushioned catching surfaces to harvest fresh market quality blueberries. Selectivity, recovery, and fruit quality during field evaluations were better than with a commercial "rotary" harvester. Fruit quality from the experimental harvester was as good as commercially hand harvested fruit. The experimental harvester caused minimal damage to the blueberry canes.