Evaluation of a Localized shake-and-Catch Harvesting System for Fresh Market Apples
Apple is a premium crop for the U.S., and fresh market apples are picked manually every year around the world presenting challenges due to uncertain availability and the high cost of labor-force. Mechanical harvesting is a potential solution to address these issues. A concept of localized shake-and-catch harvesting system was proposed in this study. According to our previous study, a predesigned shaking frequency was identified by achieving high fruit removal efficiency and fruit collection efficiency, and a buffered catching device with predesigned catching elevation angle was used to keep fruit bruising at a low level. The developed shake-and-catch harvesting system was then used to conduct the harvesting test with various apple cultivars trained in different canopy architectures. For tested cultivars and architectures, fruit removal efficiency varied from 66% to 95% under the shaking frequency of 20 Hz with US Extra Fancy and Fresh Market quality varying from 57% to 89%, and 78% to 94% respectively. It was found that ‘Jazz’, ‘Pink Lady’, ‘Fuji’, and ‘Pacific Rose’ cultivars performed better in terms of fruit removal efficiency and fruit quality. In contrast, ‘Gala’, ‘Envy’, and ‘Honeycrisp’ cultivars were found to be difficult to remove or maintain good quality during targeted shake-and-catch harvesting. In summary, the study showed the potential for mechanical harvesting of fresh market apples for certain cultivars.