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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1130: XXIX International Horticultural Congress on Horticulture: Sustaining Lives, Livelihoods and Landscapes (IHC2014): International Symposia on the Physiology of Perennial Fruit Crops and Production Systems and Mechanisation, Precision Horticulture and Robotics

Evaluating the use of harvesting systems and worker platforms in the South African deciduous fruit industry

Authors:   G.J. van der Merwe, K.I. Theron, W.P. Kotze, W.J. Steyn
Keywords:   harvest, prune, thin, injury, productivity
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1130.89
The increasing cost of fruit production necessitates more cost-effective orchard practices on South African deciduous fruit farms. Increasing the productivity of labour is one of the components focussed on. Harvesting systems and worker platforms were tested in various production areas to evaluate the effect of these machines on worker productivity during harvesting, pruning and fruit thinning. The effect of harvesting systems on the incidence of harvest injuries was also assessed. The misalignment between typical South African deciduous fruit orchards and harvesting system design leads to a decrease in overall worker productivity during harvesting. Orchard actions where a lot of time is spent moving the ladder relative to the time spent working on the ladder showed the greatest productivity gains when performed with platforms, e.g., summer pruning and to a lesser extent dormant pruning. However, few South African orchards and operational systems are suited to the implementation of these machines and much optimization and investment will be needed to mechanize the harvesting process. Factors such as tree size, shape and uniformity, fruit distribution on the tree, fruit size and quality, orchard floor condition and aspect, labour team dynamics, harvesting incentives, bin condition, operational system employed and harvest logistics all affect the feasibility and ease of mechanization.

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