Study Tour Last edition it was mentioned a study tour was one of three activities to be undertaken to more accurately scope the opportunities in improving the current almond production system; in particular a one pass, collect and retrieve harvest system, a one pass, shake and collect harvest system, infield hulling, aeration/ dehydration of harvested product, and primary and secondary processing. Below are some of the highlights to come out of the trip. One pass, shake and catch harvest system Side by Side The shake and catch side by side units such as the Coe Orchard Equipment or OMC Catchall VII were the most adaptable machinery that is currently available for shaking and catching almond trees; however, there are several challenges involved such as windfalls, tree architecture and row access. Nevertheless, these types of units have been used in both Australian and Californian almond orchards. Ben Haslett from Haslett Harvesting has had experience in using the side by side units in Australian almond orchards and provided the following summary at the recent Advanced Production Systems Workshop: Advantages : • Product doesn’t touch ground and a plus for pest, disease and moisture management. • Product is separated from moist leaves. • Low dust and orchard erosion. • Less machine hours per hectare than traditional method. • Increases chance of harvesting a premium product. • Less equipment, and therefore; capital, maintenance and labour units. • Cheaper on a per tree basis if no windfall retrieval.
• If windfalls are harvested separately, they can be treated and processed separately due to the higher food safety risk. Disadvantages: • Potential to knock off other varieties with machinery depending on row width. • Harvesting of windfalls still need to be ground harvested if significant numbers occur. • To avoid windfall losses may need to harvest when the moisture % is a little higher than traditional, and therefore need to store and manage moisture levels. • More difficult to shake trees with angled trunks. • A 1 metre trunk height is preferable (not essential) to facilitate good trunk seal thereby maximising fruit/nut capture. Real-life Experience and Costings: • Side by side unit operated at an average of 200 trees per hour, so in 10 hours you can completely harvest (shake and collect) 7Ha per day of Nonpareil. • Machines were operated at 20hrs per day, 7 days per week for five seasons.
• In practice windfalls weren’t a major issue, although future developments would look to harvest them. • Higher moisture percentages from earlier harvested fruit need to be managed. • Tree shape and trunk height is important for maximum nut retrieval. • Consider orchard spacing’s of at least 7m between rows and 4m between trees. • Some modification of machinery to suit almonds. • It cost approximately $2.50 per tree with the side by side units compared to $4.00 per tree with the traditional almond harvesting equipment, assuming 285 trees/ha. • New guidance technology could be incorporated to assist effectiveness and speed. Over the row The study tour visited Tenias, a family owned, agricultural and industrial machinery manufacturer located in Ejea de Los Caballeros, Zaragoza, Spain. The visit was to investigate the relatively recent development of their continuous moving, over the row almond harvester which shakes, de-hull’s Spanish hard shell varieties and collects product.
Coe Orchard Equipment Side by Side unit harvesting olives