There may already be a large array of automation technology available to aid blueberry harvesting, but researchers are now developing an improved solution that makes the process more efficient and limits fruit damage.
The harvesting system is currently being tested in key production states around the U.S. and has so far garnered encouraging results.
Fumiomi Takeda, a research horticulturist from the US. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), said the growing problem of labor shortages had promoted the industry to boost its focus on mechanization over recent years.
Various companies have released over-the-row (OTR) harvesters in last 50 years with a mechanical slapper, sway, and rotary shakers.
These machines require a driver and additional workers to fill boxes with harvested fruit, and have been used to harvest blueberries destined for processing.
However, some growers are using them to some extent to harvest fruit for the fresh market.
Some have packers standing on the platforms and use machinery to shake the blueberry bushes with a specific amount of energy so that only ripe fruit falls down onto a conveyor belt.
While Fumiomi Takeda said these systems had helped growers, there were still several of aspects that need improvement.