Louise Ferguson, UC Davis: My position is oriented toward doing applied production research for California's Mediterranean tree crop and I have been working with the California Olive Committee on generally most pressing production problems and in recent years it's been economically feasible mechanical harvesting.
The United States is the world's largest table olive and olive oil market. Traditionally, olives have been harvested by pickers wearing gloves and they stripped down the branch into a twenty-pound bucket wear around their waist. Unfortunately, the cost is becoming prohibitive and labor availability is decreasing sharply.
We started initially designing a harvester for the tree that we had, which was kind of a mistake because no successful mechanical harvesting is developed out changing the tree and the machine at the same time.
So, over six years we've gone from very large machines to smaller more compact machines and smaller trees. So, we have two harvesting technologies that we have examined. One is trunk shaking and trunk shaking transmits shaking very well vertically and less well horizontally. very poorly down out a branch like this. So what we had to do for those trees is prune the trees into a very short upright state. Keep the fruit close to the axis of the tree.
For the canopy contact with a machine removes the food by agitating it against the branches, we need a tree that produces as much of the fruity wall as we can. We want a short tree, no more than 10-12 feet high pruned no more than six feet wide so that the branches lop down and present a fruity wall as much of a fruity waterfall to the harvester rods as we can.
Well, we're really hoping is the mechanical harvesting will be cheaper, 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.