How Agricultural Engineers Develop Mechanical Harvesters: The University Perspective

Wednesday, July 24, 2013: 8:00 AM
Springs Salon F (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
Sergio Castro-Garcia, PhD , Department of Agricultural Engineering, University of Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain
Developing mechanical harvesting is the most effective, and most difficult, factor, in improving horticultural crop profitability.  It requires simultaneous incremental change by multiple entities; University engineers, horticulturists, food scientists, economists and local extension personnel, the commercial harvester industry, growers and displaced laborers and their management. It has a narrow annual testing window.  The initial research by engineers and horticulturists focuses on developing effective removal technologies and can be applied or basic. With local funding research is generally applied adaptations of existing technology.  With national funding the research is basic or novel technologies.  Both are conducted on model systems or individual plants.  Properly executed both types can be published but publication is difficult if engineering parameters are changed during trials. Evaluation of developed removal technologies requires cross disciplinary teams to evaluate the effects on final marketable product quality long term tree health. Teams include horticulturists, pathologists, food scientists, economists and extension personnel and local funding.  Publications can be produced on testing technology or effects on marketable product quality or plant health.  An industry education program with field days, industry publications and websites and annual presentations should frequently report progress. Finally, economic feasibility on a mobile platform with catching technology, a prototype, should be demonstrated.  The research team now expands to  include the harvester industry and grower cooperators.   Planting adaptions to increase harvester efficiency are incorporated.   All research is applied and the funding local.  If results demonstrate economic feasibility the technology should segue to the commercial harvester to industry as University laboratories lack the capacity to generate truly commercial harvesters.  Patents are possible but preclude publication.