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A Fresh-market Apple Harvesting Technique

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  131619241,  2013 Kansas City, Missouri, July 21 - July 24, 2013. (doi: @2013
Authors:   Mark E De Kleine, Manoj Karkee, Karen Lewis, Qin Zhang
Keywords:   apple harvest mechanical harvest end-effector trellis fruiting-wall.

Abstract. Fresh–market apple harvesting is currently performed using manual labor in all fruit growing regions in the United States (US) and the world. Because labor costs are increasing and labor availability is increasingly uncertain, mechanized harvesting solutions are critically important for the sustainability of fresh-market apple industry. In this study, an innovative concept for apple harvesting was developed and tested in trellised fruiting-wall canopy orchards. This investigation studied the potential of harvesting an apple using bi-directional rotating rubber wheels to spin, or rotate, from a trellised branch. Three parameters were considered in the study: wheel rotational direction, wheel speed, and apple cultivar. Harvesting tests were conducted on two cultivars of apple trees during the 2012 Washington State apple harvest season (mid August to mid November) namely: ‘Pacific Rose’ and ‘Jonagold’. Harvested apples were classified into two removal condition categories: stem intact and stem not intact. Fruit removal with stem intact was 86% for ‘Pacific Rose’ and 58% for ‘Jonagold’. Fruit with stem not intact equaled 8% for ‘Pacific Rose’ and 40% for ‘Jonagold’. Wheels rotating in the same direction generally removed more fruit classified as stem intact, than wheels rotating in opposing directions. The results from this study show a promise for a fruit removal technique applicable to apples grown in a trellised orchard system.

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