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May 27, 2009 | Olive Oil |

Road Trip Part 2: Machine Harvesting or Hand Harvesting?

Maurcio Castro, Luis Scaronne, Julio, and I continued onwards in our observation of the Caña del Onda olive orchard property. We still had to cover a lot of ground. . . just over 200 acres of olives.

The health, status, and pruning methods of these young trees were the topics of discussion. Everything looked very positive and promising in regards to the health and status of these younglings.

But, on the issue of pruning, it was a tough decision. Some varietals may be mechanically hand harvested while others by big machines.

Freshly harvested olivesIn reality, there are 5 ways that olive trees are harvested. I saw some interesting examples of these today. But first, here they are. . .

1. By hand.
2. Using a stick. . . yes, imagine smacking the branches
3. Mechanical branch shaking devices
4. Mechanical vibrating tree shakers mounted to a tractor
5. Mechanical riding harvesters

To point out the obvious, harvesting olives by hand is crazy, time consuming, and painful. Harvesting with a stick is just as pointedly difficult as harvesting by hand. And really, these first two methods were how olives have been harvested for over 4,000 years.

Colossus olive harvesterMechanical branch shaking devices are probably the most common form of harvesting olives.  Vibrating tree shakers can strip 600 plants in 7 hours (43 seconds/tree).

Even better than that are the riding harvesters such as Colossus.  Colossus can harvest 15 acres per day. Obviously, options 3-5 are the better choices. The question is will these products match your landscape and your pruning decisions.

80-year old trees being harvested by hand For Familia Zuccardi, part of their orchard will be harvested by branch shaking devices, the rest by Colossus or a vibrating tree shaker. This is an unknown decison to be researched further.

At LMR, Pilo Villanueva Sanchez, our olive orchard/vineyard foreman and his crew have to harvest on very tough terrain. The most difficult parts of the mountain to harvest are at a 65 degree angle. Dealing with this adversity, Pilo uses the mechanical branch shakers to strip the branches clean, dropping the olives in our special netting.

Later that day, we drove 2 hours North to a tiny town called Niquivil. We met with Carlos Francisco Lopez, Manager of Operations for a company called Bidwell. Bidwell has about 310 acres of olive trees with a median age of 80 years.

This orchard reminded me very much of our historic orchards at LMR. The trunks were massive and the branches were immensely fruitful. Bidwell grows a number or varietals. . . perhaps too many to name.

Mechanical branch shakers While here, we witnessed some people using the ancient method of harvesting. . . hitting branches with sticks. I couldn't believe my eyes. Fortunately, they also had mechanical branch shakers.

Maurcio and I both had the opportunity to operate these devices. I didn't even need to try the stick method.

This was perfect!  I'll take one of these!

Posted by Jason Moulton

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