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Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 33;

Applying New Technologies to Transform Blueberry Harvesting

United States Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service, Appalachian Fruit Research Station, Kearneysville, WV 25430, USA
North Willamette Research and Extension Center, Oregon State University, Aurora, OR 97002, USA
College of Engineering, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 16802, USA
Qingdao Blueberry Engineering Center, Jiaonan City, Qingdao 266400, China
Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Esther van der Knaap, Cecilia E. McGregor and Francesco Montemurro
Received: 7 March 2017 / Revised: 25 April 2017 / Accepted: 27 April 2017 / Published: 4 May 2017
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The growth of the blueberry industry in the past three decades has been remarkably robust. However, a labor shortage for hand harvesting, increasingly higher labor costs, and low harvest efficiencies are becoming bottlenecks for sustainable development of the fresh market blueberry production. In this study, we evaluated semi-mechanical harvesting systems consisting of a harvest-aid platform with soft fruit catching surfaces that collected the fruit detached by portable, hand-held, pneumatic shakers. The softer fruit catching surfaces were not glued to the hard sub-surfaces of the harvest-aid platform, but suspended over them. Also, the ergonomic aspect of operating powered harvesting equipment was determined. The pneumatic shakers removed 3.5 to 15 times more fruit (g/min) than by hand. Soft fruit catching surfaces reduced impact force and bruise damage. Fruit firmness was higher in fruit harvested by hand compared to that by pneumatic shakers in some cultivars. The bruise area was less than 8% in fruit harvested by hand and with semi-mechanical harvesting system. The percentage of blue, packable fruit harvested by pneumatic shakers comprised as much as 90% of the total, but less than that of hand-harvested fruit. The ergonomic analysis by electromyography showed that muscle strain in the back, shoulders, and forearms was low in workers operating the light-weight, pneumatic shakers that were tethered to the platform with a tool balancer. The new harvesting method can reduce the labor requirement to about 100 hour/hectare/year and help to mitigate the rising labor cost and shortage of workers for harvesting fresh-market quality blueberries. View Full-Text
Keywords: fruit detachment; harvest efficiency; blueberry; shaking equipment; mechanical harvesting; ergonomics; instrumented sphere; acceleration; impact damage; impact recording device fruit detachment; harvest efficiency; blueberry; shaking equipment; mechanical harvesting; ergonomics; instrumented sphere; acceleration; impact damage; impact recording device

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Takeda, F.; Yang, W.Q.; Li, C.; Freivalds, A.; Sung, K.; Xu, R.; Hu, B.; Williamson, J.; Sargent, S. Applying New Technologies to Transform Blueberry Harvesting. Agronomy 2017, 7, 33.

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