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.

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

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 www.hdc.org.uk.


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