Mechanical harvesting traditionally comes with extensive bruising of berries and in the end with a significant impact on the bottom line.
FineField took a different approach and re-thought blueberry harvesting from the ground up. Guiding design principle was: No bruising, no losing.
Looking at the no bruising part it was obvious for us that we needed to do some rethinking here. Most of the current harvesters use hard materials inside the machine, like catcher plates, metal tunnels etc. Next to that conveyor belts with a lot of drop moments are moving the berries all around the machine.
We started with an analysis of catching surfaces (fig. 1). Hard surfaces are obviously not a preferred direction. When a berry drops on such a surface all the energy gets absorbed in the berry. As a result, you have bruised berries.
Figure 1: analysis of catching surfaces
Looking at soft catching surfaces three things are important.
Because of durability and hygiene we rejected foam as a suitable material. For the Harvy500 we tested and used brushes in combination with sheets. Next to the plant sealing capabilities brushes have a very good dampening effect on the fall of a berry. With using sheets for catching berries, we already have more than 10 years of experience with the Harvy200.
Another important cause for bruising is the number of drop moments. We managed to limit the number of drop moments to two. First the detaching of the berry from the bush and second the drop into the crate. As explained a combination of brushes and sheets dampen these drops
So, a combination of brushes and sheets together with minimizing the drop moments made perfectly sense. And testing during the 2020 harvesting season confirmed fresh market quality of the berries (also with using an electrically driven shaker-head)