It’s been a great year! Just eighteen months ago, we decided to improve the Easyharvester and to develop a more advanced harvesting machine, embarking on this mission through intensive cooperation with a number of partners. To achieve this ambition, we founded a new company named Fine Field BV, changed the name of the Easyharvester to Harvy200, and developed a revolutionary concept for a new machine: the Harvy500.
Together with a team of four entrepreneurs, we created a new vision for the harvesting of blueberries. By pooling our creativity, networks, and resources, we created a concept that would then need to prove its worth in the 2019 harvest season. We can now proudly announce that it has been a resounding success! With this achievement in mind, in this newsletter we would like to tell you more about our vision for the future and the current state of affairs.
The technology used for standard Over the Row (OTR) harvesting machines was originally developed for grape cultivation and is therefore not optimized for harvesting blueberries. Standard OTR machines often damage the harvested product and cause great loss of product, as up to 20% of the berries can fall to the ground during harvesting! The reason for this is the shape of a blueberry bush is totally different from that of a grapevine.
To solve these problems, Fine Field has developed the patented 'NOGAP' catching system. This is an ingenious brush system that perfectly encloses the plant, so that no berries are damaged or end up on the ground.
There is no single system that is suitable for all picking situations: sometimes it is better to pick berries by hand and at other times a mechanical shaking system or removal with a blower is preferred. The choice depends on many factors, such as the variety of berry, the weather conditions, the market price, the final sales channel, and the availability of labour. Our Harvy500 harvester can easily respond to all these factors and makes it possible to switch from manual to mechanical shaking within half an hour.
Another revolutionary application of the Harvy500 is that the machine can shake mechanically completely unmanned, allowing for much lower operational costs. Moreover, the Harvy500 can shake the same plant at different stages, ensuring that only the ripe berries are harvested each time. This concept is similar to a robotic lawnmower: just as the robot continuously mows high blades of grass sticking out above the rest, so our harvester constantly shakes only ripe berries out of the plants.
The Harvy500 can even harvest unmanned at night, meaning that you can go through the same row of berry bushes once or ten times without affecting the costs per kilogram.
Our concept for the Harvy500 has been realized and tested for effectiveness and has proven a resounding success! Thanks to the new patented catching technology, the quality of the berries is perfect for the fresh-food market when manually shaken. The tests also demonstrated that the Harvy500 keeps itself level with the greatest of ease and navigates through the rows without intervention. In addition, the battery-powered machine uses incredibly little energy: only 1 kWh (using manual shaking), which is no more than a modern washing machine!
The machine can easily switch from row to row with the powered lateral wheel sets. The crate change system ensures perfectly weighed and filled crates. A specially designed seat, inspired by a massage chair, also makes the machine very pleasant to use for manual harvesting. The use for manual harvesting is further boosted because the pickers do not have to deal with the smell of petrol or the noise of a fuel engine.
We have not yet worked enough hours to determine whether the lifespan of all systems meets our requirements. The systems are currently being tested very intensively to ensure that the Harvy500 functions optimally next season.
We have started working on developing the first mechanical shaking system. In the future we would like to develop multiple mechanical shaking systems, so that we can offer a suitable solution for multiple situations and varieties. The development of the shaker systems is flexible and will be backward compatible, so that machines already delivered can also make use of future innovations.
The Harvy500 is already connected to the internet, so that we can always keep an eye on the status of all the components. We want to further develop this digital technology, so that we can remotely repair any malfunctions even better. We also want to monitor entire fields by linking the harvest weights to GPS data to create a map on which the harvested kilogrammes per individual berry bush can be displayed. Lastly, we want to investigate whether the automated labelling of the crates to link the abovementioned data to each individual crate is something that our clients would be interested in, to further improve traceability.