Saturday, June 29, 2013

Machine Picking Raspberries


We recently started picking our raspberries. The berries that we sell fresh are all hand picked because raspberries are extremely fragile. We have chosen to machine pick our raspberries for our frozen market because it save us money, and is far more efficient than hand picking. We have four acres of raspberries this year with new plantings that will increase the size to 10 acres.

In order to be the most efficient we have taken our blueberry picker and altered it a bit. We use Littau Harvesters and are lucky enough to have two of them when harvesting our 70+ acres of blueberries. To alter our machines to pick raspberries we exchanged the shaker heads and put in ones that would be more gentle when shaking the raspberry vines.

The picker process goes something like this: The machine straddles the row and then gently shakes the vines causing the the raspberries to fall and be caught in cups that line the sides, and are carried to the top of the machine where they are dumped onto another conveyer belt, where they make their way into a bin that is divided into 12 slots like placing 12 pints together. Those flats are then stacked in the waiting area on the machine and transferred to a truck where they are then taken to our holding room to be processed.

Another aspect of the picking process is that we choose to pick during the night. Nights are far cooler than the day, this helps maintain the continuity of the berry,  and preserves it. Whereas if we were picking during the heat of the day the raspberries would become very mushy and would not a be a good quality product.
One of our machine pickers

Blueberry shaker heads

Top conveyer belt

Top conveyer belt from the side, you can see the cup on the right side.

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