Harvesting olives with Manitou & Topavi

Manitou Southern Africa, in conjunction with French parent company Manitou, recently hosted a group of South African olive farmers in Spain.

The purpose of the visit was to introduce Manitou’s revolutionary olive harvesting attachment, developed in cooperation with Spanish company Topavi. Joe Spencer reports.

“Olive harvesting isn’t a simple or easy procedure, especially when working under time constraints,” says Johan van der Westhuizen, national agriculture manager for Manitou. “Take the green olives used to produce virgin olive oil. They need to be harvested during a certain window before they get too ripe. Manual harvesting is time-consuming and while conventional tree shakers are quicker than picking by hand, they can damage the tree.”

That’s why Manitou has developed the Topavi olive harvesting attachment, which is safe for the tree and extremely efficient.The Topavi, used on a Maniscopic telescopic handler, is shaped like an umbrella. It opens up and surrounds the tree, clamping onto the stem. With an orbital shaking motion the olives are harvested in less than two minutes, with 92% to 96% of the fruit collected. The olives are collected in a metal bin with a 0,5m3 capacity, beneath the umbrella attachment, then deposited via a chute into a truck or trailer.

“The attachment has been scientifically developed so that it in no way damages the tree during the shaking process,” says Johan. “The clamps are padded so that they don’t harm the stem and the oscillating shaking motion is actually good for the tree’s root system as it loosens the soil and allows for aeration.” Operators of the Maniscopic telescopic handler have an unobstructed view of the tree. This lets them safely and efficiently work the controls and hydraulically operate the attachment. The rough terrain machine is versatile and highly manoeuvrable and can be used by farmers to dig, load, prune and handle pallets.

Thumbs up from SA farmers
Olive cultivation is gaining popularity in South Africa, and local olive farmers recently visited Spain to see the Topavi at work. “They were very impressed with the Topavi and its effectiveness,” says Johan. “In South Africa there is no general method for olive harvesting. Some farmers prefer manual methods while others have adopted overseas methods of over-the-row harvesting, where a grape harvester is used to collect the olives. “However, over-the-row olives need to be planted in high-density groves, which can lower fruit quality by increasing insect activity. Trees planted closer together yield fruit sooner but only produce good quality olives for a few years.”

The use of the Topavi attachment with a Manitou telescopic handler will increase yields and save time and labour. It has sparked tremendous interest among those farmers who made the trip to Spain. “Our farmers visited a number of olive farms and watched the shaker in action. They were also able to discuss its merits and application with the Spanish farmers,” says Johan. The Topavi attachment is being used extensively throughout Spain, the biggest olive producer in the world. It is also being used successfully in the rest of Europe and Australia.