Science into practice harvesting technologies

With labour costs soaring, HDC study FV 368 has identified the potential for mechanisation to be developed to reduce reliance on hand labour in the vegetable industry.

Harvesting of brassica and whole head lettuce is heavily dependent on manual labour for picking, trimming and packing. The brassica and lettuce growers were keen to investigate whether their current level of reliance on manual labour could be reduced by the introduction or development of more automated harvesting systems.

The main aims of FV 368 were to: assess and compare existing systems for cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and whole head lettuce; identify the technical factors limiting the development of more systems; and identify developments with the potential to lead to new or improved designs that would better serve UK growers.

At present, self-propelled mobile packhouses mounted on tracks or four-wheel drive units represent the peak in current practice for selective harvesting. The inability to automatically detect produce maturity is the main reason why commercial selective harvesters are not available yet.

Some image analysis research to detect the maturity of a broccoli head was examined. Italian research on robotic harvesting was appraised. UK research into selective harvesting of cauliflowers was assessed and the potential of microwave technology to determine curd maturity was detailed.


HDC Field Vegetables Panel Meeting - Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, 10 March.

HDC HNS Panel Meeting - London, 24 March.

Horticultural Development Company

For details on all HDC activities, visit

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Is a post-Brexit seasonal worker scheme now impossible?

Is a post-Brexit seasonal worker scheme now impossible?

The UK fresh-produce sector has reacted with dismay at the latest developments in the ongoing debate, largely conducted out of public view, on whether UK horticulture will still have access to seasonal migrant workers when the UK leaves the EU in 18 months' time.

Can UK fresh produce come out of Brexit ahead?

Can UK fresh produce come out of Brexit ahead?

UK production horticulture can become more profitable under one possible Brexit scenario, while other more drastic scenarios will lead to only minor losses in profitability, a new report argues.

Business Planning - Staff are your greatest asset

Business Planning - Staff are your greatest asset

An effective strategy to retain staff is the best way for any business to avoid a potential recruitment crisis, Neville Stein advises.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production

Read Professor Geoffrey Dixon