Time-motion studies have shown that 30 to 50 percent of the time required to harvest tree fruit crops is spent climbing and positioning the ladder and placing harvested fruit in the bulk container. Harvesting aids can increase efficiency by 15 to 20 percent or more, depending on tree design, orchard terrain, and uniformity of fruit load. Some of the earliest harvesting aids were designed to position a single picker in the canopy of a conventional large freestanding fruit tree. The cost of these harvest aids and the problems associated with moving the harvested fruit from the picker to the bulk container have limited their use within the industry.

Most harvesting aids are designed for high-density orchards trained to a hedgerow or similar continuous canopy system. For this reason, they have been more common in European orchards than in the United States, where many orchards still consist of single-tree units planted at low or medium densities. A typical harvest aid for high-density plantings is designed to position two to six pickers at various levels in the tree canopy. Pickers work as a team as the aid moves down the tree rows. A unit consists of a towed or self-propelled base with platforms constructed at several levels, which are fitted with telescoping catwalks that can be extended into the tree. Systems to convey fruit to a bulk container and for handling the bulk container are built into the harvest aid. Recent designs have incorporated computerized self-steering mechanisms and improved conveyor systems for handling fruit between the picker and the bulk container (Figure H1.3).

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