Improvements to mechanical citrus harvester (CT09049)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
The dream of mechanical harvesting for citrus crops destined for the juicing industry was, at the time, well down the path to reality for Australian farmers.
Nelson Harvesters, with the financial assistance of Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited), had produced a machine that could harvest modern high‐yielding orchards with consistent tonnages per day and ease for the grower. Labour requirements were about one tenth of the traditional method of pickers and ladders.
Nelson Harvesters was a small business that built specialised machinery and offered growers a contract harvesting service to provide extended real life working conditions. The citrus harvester had been used for 3 seasons, had over 1000 hours on the clock and harvested its 100th semi‐trailer load in October 2010.
Leeton in the Riverina district of NSW had become the centre of the Australian citrus industry particularly with the demise of the Murray valley orchards. Severe water shortages in the last 10 years have seen resources redirected to more profitable crops. In 2010 the harvester worked on two medium‐sized orchards that supply the National Foods factory in Leeton.
Following substantial engineering changes in early 2010, tonnages per hour were up 30% from the previous year. After initial scepticism, major players in the industry were starting to accept Australian‐made mechanical harvesting was here to stay and began expecting improvements before the start of every season.
Nelson Harvesters had satisfied itself that the machine at the time had both the performance and durability to be an attractive proposition for third parties. Contract harvesting was an excellent way to prove a machine, but it was incapable of providing a sufficient return on investment. In order to maintain R&D spending and a reasonable economic return efforts were made in the coming months to canvass interest from the big international machinery companies and/or the giant operators in Brazil.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the financial support of Nelson Harvesters Pty Ltd.
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