Narrator: This is Science Today. The United States has the largest market for table olives and olive oil and the state of California produces over 95 percent of the olives in this country. But plant science specialist, Louise Ferguson of the University of California, Davis, says the industry has been struggling over the years, partially due to the difficulty and costs associated with hand harvesting. Ferguson and her colleagues have developed a prototype machine that can mechanically harvest olives.
Ferguson: We finally developed a machine that we think is sufficiently flexible and sufficiently economical for mechanical harvesting of olives, if the tree is trained properly. 145 There's two mechanical harvesting technologies we're using. One is trunk shaking for slightly larger, older trees and the other is canopy contact. What we're really hoping is that mechanical harvesting will be cheaper, will be more reliable than trying to find an uneven labor force and it will allow us to sustain an industry that has a nice long history in California.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.