Southern Falcon

Manual vs Mechanical: What type of harvest is best for me?

When we talk about agriculture, one of the crucial moments is the harvest. This reflects the effort and result of the entire productive period and the strategies used. It is for this reason that planning the harvest is essential, since it will determine the results of the business. 

Today there are many plant species, fruits, vegetables and crops in general that can be harvested in two ways: mechanically or manually. 

It should not be difficult for the reader to quickly understand how they differ, but the truth is that each one has its advantages and weaknesses that you should know before choosing one or the other. And it is that the one indicated for your reality will depend on the scope of your business and the context in which you operate.

Below we explain what you should know about each of the forms of harvesting, in order to choose the one that works best for your business:

hand harvest

Manual harvesting, as its name indicates, is based on the collection of fruits, vegetables, among others, with people who, whether specialized or not, harvest the product with their hands (many times using sharp objects, such as scissors, knives, or simply your hands) and depositing the product in a container. Generally this process is slow, and involves a lot of physical energy and man hours to reach high volumes, which is why it is an expensive way, and many times slower than mechanized harvesting. 

The specialization of the people, their good training, incentives and control, all of this will have an impact in the first place on the productivity of the work, as well as on the damage that the harvested product could have, since many times, if it is done badly , the harvester may end up damaging the harvest.

When produce has a natural abscission, the manual harvesting process is much easier and cleaner, making the risk of damage less. 

The biggest disadvantage of manual harvesting is the impact of human error and the variability that exists between harvesters, some harvest a product outside the consumption maturity range, obtaining immature or overripe results, which are outside the quality standard. Many times the mishandling of some and the damage done to the product can generate susceptibility to infections, which can later spread throughout the entire box, or with the same harvesting tool spread a disease if they are not properly disinfected. 

We could say that one of the biggest difficulties faced by orchards today is the availability of people to do the work when it is required. This, added to the cost of labor in the fields, complicates the procedures, which often involve a large number of people.

Mechanized Harvest

On the other hand, there is the possibility of carrying out a mechanized harvest. Although this may be through the use of a fully automated machine, many times it can be assisted by people with the help of devices or mechanical tools that facilitate the work. The main problem that mechanized harvesting has for producers is the value of the tools to carry out the process, however, this cost will often help you to be more efficient, save on problems with human personnel, and it is that the greatest number of times, depending on the surface, this investment pays off in spades. And it is that implementing mechanical tools to a job that historically is done manually, can bring great benefits in issues such as the amount of raw material collected and the speed with which the harvest is done.

There are too many tools that can be used for this mechanized process to list them all here, but let's just say that by using a pickup truck you can speed up the harvesting process a lot, or you can even use conveyor belts suspended over multiple rows of the crop, which they can move the products to a trailer, lowering the percentage of risk that the harvest ends with bruises or other problems that can arise when they are handled to move them from place.

But while all of this may sound great, the truth is that mechanical harvesting also has its problems and pitfalls. Normally, what is emphasized the most is that manual harvesting continues to be the most delicate process to obtain the products. It is not for nothing that cherries are still extracted manually in most places. On the other hand, many machines, especially harvesters, cannot normally work on uneven terrain, and let's agree that there are many plantations that are done on this type of terrain, making it difficult to mechanize the process in the future. This is why mechanized harvesting, although it is more efficient than manual harvesting, is often almost impossible to use for certain products. 

With this brief summary, the question for you is the following: What is the best form of harvest for you? Have you evaluated the two alternatives? Its pros, cons, costs and benefits? We hope this information is useful to you and helps you discern which process may best suit your context. And remember to continue visiting our blog to read more content on agriculture.