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Use of platforms during apple harvest has opened up the opportunity for night harvesting. Platforms can be equipped with LED lights that allow workers to see the fruit more easily than in sunlight, says Washington State University Extension Specialist Karen Lewis. And that helps them pick faster. Selective color picking is also easier under LED lighting.

Adding a second or third shift allows companies to harvest from more acreage in a given time, and some pickers prefer to work in the cool evening hours than in the heat of the day, even though they have more bugs, such as mosquitoes and gnats, to deal with.

However, adding night shifts means employing more forklift drivers, checkers, and supervisors, as well as pickers, Lewis noted. “It does complicate things, and it does increase your costs for management. It’s a shift in the way we’re doing business.”

The harvest-assist machine pictured here was manufactured by Automated Ag Systems in Moses Lake, Washington. For more information go to automatedag.com.

Two of Stemilt's night harvesting crews on motorized platforms near Quincy, Washington picking SweeTango apples on October 16, 2014. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Two of Stemilt’s night harvesting crews on motorized platforms near Quincy, Washington picking SweeTango apples on October 16, 2014. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)