Chuck Dietrich demonstrates the hydraulically powered device that levels the platform so workers perform better on sloping ground.

Chuck Dietrich demonstrates the hydraulically powered device that levels the platform so workers perform better on sloping ground.

Richard Lehnert

Like happy kids with a new toy, growers swarmed down the tree rows and climbed over the vacuum-powered apple harvester, in a hands-on demonstration of the DBR Conveyor Concepts machine.

About 30 growers attended the demonstration September 20 in the Jonagold orchard owned by David Rennhack in Hart, Michigan, also attended by Good Fruit Grower. Two days earlier, another demonstration had taken place at Applewood Orchards in Deerfield, and others were coming in the days ahead at Evans Brothers near Frankfort and at Riveridge Packing near Sparta.

Mike Rasch, the R in DBR, said the goal was to give growers actual hands-on experience with the machine. He predicted it would be for sale the next year and would probably cost between $90,000 and $95,000. Two slightly different versions of the machine have been developed, for one the East and one for the West.

The machine will be built by Phil Brown Welding, Conklin, Michigan, the B in DBR.

Chuck Dietrich, the D in DBR who usually stays behind the scenes, was there to supervise a part of the machine he designed—the foam-padded decelerator wheels that instantly and safely stop a swiftly moving apple, grasping it and moving it away before the next apple arrives that might hit it.

Since work on the prototype began about three years ago, the machine has undergone several improvements, Rasch said.

In the newest version, conventional metal picking buckets were cut down and adapted to fit on the tubes. A picker wears the bucket in the conventional manner, with its harness, thus freeing both hands to pick. No need to hold or move the tube. The apples placed in the bucket quickly disappear, sucked into the vacuum tube.

Good Fruit Grower will provide a full report on the status of the machine in the November issue.