Matt Whiting, a WSU researcher, estimates that a mechanical cherry harvester could save producers about 24 cents per pound. WSU's two-unit mechanical harvester propels itself through an orchard while the operator uses joysticks to extend and retract a mechanical arm that shakes cherries loose from the branches. They then fall on a soft catching surface draped over rollers. The rollers push cherries onto a conveyor belt where they sit under a fan that blows away leaves. Finally, the fruit rolls into a packing box. The harvester could reduce harvest labor costs by 80 to 90%.
The team is evaluating the efficiency, fruit-quality, and consumer acceptance of this stem-free harvester. If consumers don't accept stemless cherries, the technology may have little value. In addition, research is also needed on the shelf life of stemless cherries.
Washington State University
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