New mechanical thinner
Washington State University researchers discussed their new hand-held mechanical thinner during a recent cherry field day.
Karen Lewis and Kevin Wang show a prototype of a hand-held mechanical thinner being developed at WSU.
A hand-held mechanical thinning tool for tree fruits was among the projects highlighted during Washington State University’s annual cherry field day at Prosser on June 18.
A prototype of the hand-held thinner was made by adapting a gas-engine string trimmer. Karen Lewis, WSU extension educator for Grant and Adams Counties, who has been testing the device, said it is too heavy and noisy for a person to use for an extended period of time, and she envisions that the a battery-operated or electric version of the tool will be developed eventually. WSU scientists have made several different heads for the tool with a variety of types, lengths, and widths of cords and are patenting the concept.
Visitors during the field day also saw:
• An electric ATV that will be used to assess battery life during agricultural use. Tests will also be done with sensors mounted on the vehicle and the WeedSeeker system for herbicide spraying.
• A system for monitoring cherry harvest efficiency that consists of a bin-size scale and a data logger. Data are transmitted via radio to a laptop so that the weight of the bin can be monitored as it is filled. WSU has built three such systems for monitoring the rate of picking, according to Dr. Fran Pierce at the Center for Precision Agricultural Systems. They have been tested in commercial orchards to show how different technologies or tree architectures in the orchard affect worker efficiency.
• An idea from Picker Technologies, Inc. for harvesting cherries using vacuum tubes in place of bins. The company has developed a mechanically-assisted harvesting system for apples. Workers place apples in flexible tubes, which use vacuum pressure to carry the fruit up to a platform where they are electronically sorted and placed in bins. The company envisions a similar system for cherries.
For more information, read the upcoming August print edition of the Good Fruit Grower.