The Bin Bandit hauls bins during the harvest season, and a platform sits on it for use in thinning, pruning, and tree training.
A machinery manufacturer came to Lamont Fruit Farm three seasons ago, wanting to demonstrate a five-bin pickup system to see how the machine, developed as a harvest aid for vegetables, would perform in an apple orchard.
Rod Farrow saw promise in the Bin Bandit, asked for a platform addition, and bought the final product. “It was easily modified for dual use,” Farrow said. “They put a platform on it, and we get six to eight months’ use from it each year.
“We use it for pruning tops, thinning tops, and putting clips on trees to hook them to the trellis,” he said. During harvest, they remove the platform and use the bin hauler.
Last year, the manufacturer added an automatic steering feature. “It’s pretty simple really,” Farrow said. “The machine is designed to continuously turn to the right. When a sensor arm contacts trees, the machine turns back to straight and begins turning right again.”
The platform is fixed in location; it doesn’t move up or down but can be moved into or away from the trees. Trees are topped at 11 feet, and men working from the ground can reach to seven feet. So the platform is positioned to deal with that top four feet of the trees.
The machine was built by J.J. Dagorret’s Automated Ag Systems, in Tampa, Florida. It is hydraulically self-propelled and four-wheel drive. Farrow hasn’t used it either as a harvest platform or for winter pruning when there’s snow on the ground. “We prune the tops closer to bloom time