February 2019 - 1

Harrell honored for
commitment to Florida
strawberries
Researchers filter
through the pros and
cons in netting
13
24
42
Value-added products
boost small grower's
revenue
February 2019 | Volume 58 |
Issue 2
Automation
Advent
Industry says apple
harvests ripe for
automatic help
A variety of projects seek to develop harvest-assist machines for apple growers: Top, a 2016 prototype from Abundant Robotics; left, a FFRobotics machine that will be available
for the 2019 harvest; right, the Cyclone from Automated Ag DBR. Photos: Abundant Robotics, FFRobotics, Automated Ag DBR
(Editor's note: This is the first in a
series of stories in which FGN will explore
emerging technologies impacting specialty
crop operations).
By Stephen Kloosterman
Associate Editor
Meet the Cyclone, a system of vacuum
tubes that takes apples from human
pickers, gently filling bins as it propels
itself through the orchard.
The Cyclone is the fruit, so to speak, of a
partnership between East and West applegrowing
regions. The vacuum system,
from Conklin, Michigan's DBR Conveyor
Concepts, is the result of 10 years of
development, while the bin-handling, selfpropelled
picker platform it's married to
is from Automated Ag Systems, based in
Moses Lake, Washington.
More pieces could be coming:
Automated Ag President J.J. Dagorret
said that he hopes to try out robotic
pickers with the Cyclone.
Researchers, equipment dealers
and engineers are putting it all
together: Technology, modern orchard
architecture and the persistent
difficulty of finding seasonal labor for
harvests make apple orchards ripe for
automatic help.
Apple harvest auto-assist projects
include everything from mechanical tree
shakers to robots trying to actually pluck
apples off the tree.
He Long is an assistant professor in
the Department of Agricultural and
Biological Engineering at Pennsylvania
State University's Research and
Extension Center. He served as a
research engineer on tests of mechanical
harvesting (shake and catch) projects for
apples and cherries and was involved in
machine design,
fabrication, and
field tests.
The main
drawback for
mechanical
harvesting is
the fruit quality,
but Long said with more uniform tree
architecture and localized harvesting, it
shows some promise for growers with
certain varieties.
High-Tech Tools
2019
Reaching for robotics
Beyond mechanical harvesters,
robotics seems more feasible each year.
" As the tree architectures become
more and more uniform and simple (2D
structure), as well as the development
of sensing and robotic technologies (the
See AUTOMATION, page 5

February 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of February 2019

February 2019 - 1
February 2019 - 2
February 2019 - 3
February 2019 - 4
February 2019 - 5
February 2019 - 6
February 2019 - 7
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