Smarter tomato harvesting

The largest – and what some say, the smartest – three-row tomato harvester has made its debut on the agricultural scene. Joe Spencer describes this impressive implement with its nine pumps that run 38 hydraulic motors to operate various functions.
Issue date: 23 February 2007

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A recent edition of the magazine Powersource, a John Deere Power Systems publication, featured a new three-row tomato harvester. Golden Valley Manufacturing in Bakersfield, California, in the United States, developed this technologically advanced machine – probably the largest, and certainly the smartest tomato harvester in the world.

The first prototype was built for the 2006 harvest. is powered by a John Deere PowerTech Plus 9.0 litre engine driving four piston pumps, four gear pumps and one hydrostatic pump through a Funk 5600 pump drive. These nine pumps run 38 hydraulic motors to operate the various functions in the harvesting process. Hydraulic systems are controlled and monitored by a Parker IQAN system. This is the electro-hydraulic communication link between the hydraulics and the engine that monitors the driver’s operation of the foot pedals and joystick controls. The movement data generated is converted into usable electronic signals that precisely control the hydraulic and engine functions to optimise the harvester’s performance.

Greg Brannstrom, owner of Golden Valley Manufacturing, estimates that the new harvester has the potential to reduce harvesting costs by as much as 66%. It is designed to harvest up to 150 000 tons of processing tomatoes per year, which is more than double the capacity of conventional harvesters. Brannstrom expects the fuel efficiency of the PowerTech Plus engine to reduce fuel costs by up to 50%.

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Labour requirements are reduced, which would result in significant total savings. Another feature is the electronic sorter. The engine powers a JD compressor that produces air for a system that removes unripe fruit and dirt from the fruit during harvesting. It drives a variable-flow fan that removes debris from the radiator. Brannstrom is impressed with the new Tier 3/Stage lll PowerTech Plus engine. “engine generates a lot of power and torque. This engine will produce the torque reserve needed to get you through the tough spots. I’m very happy with the way it runs, and it is very quiet and smooth.”

The technical details include PowerTech Plus 6090H six-cylinder, 9.0 litre, air-to-air aftercooled diesel engine generating 298kW. The South African distributor of John Deere Power Systems is New Way Motor & Diesel Engineering in Johannesburg. Contact Jonathan Freed on (011) 680 5632 or e-mail [email protected].
E-mail- BGreg Brannstrom at [email protected]. |FW