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Prototype of mechanical harvesting machine for olives developed

Narrator:       This is Science Today. After years of work with the California Olive Committee, a team of specialists at the University of California, Davis, Olive Center has developed a prototype machine for mechanically harvesting table olives. Plant science specialist Louise Ferguson explains that traditionally the fruit is harvested by hand pickers.

Ferguson:      They strip down the branch to a 20-pound bucket that they wear around their waist. They get paid generally by the 40-pound picking basket and I would say eight pickers could pick a ton in about two hours. Unfortunately, the cost is becoming prohibitive and labor availability is decreasing sharply and the necessity to be on ladders for any tree over 10 feet is becoming an issue.

Narrator:       Ferguson says once a tree is properly pruned, their mechanical harvesting technologies — one that shakes the trunk; another that uses canopy contact to remove fruit by agitating the branches — are a flexible and economical alternative to hand picking.  For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.