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Bob Larson Blueberry Mechanization Pt 2
by Bob Larson, click here for bio

Program: Fruit Grower Report
Date: September 07, 2018

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With today’s Fruit Grower Report, I’m Bob Larson. We talked some yesterday about Washington blueberry growers working on ways to harvest fresh market berries by machine.

Washington Blueberry Commission Executive Director Dr. Alan Schreiber says, remarkably, it isn’t the increased production, but how demand for our berries continues to grow every year …

SCHREIBER … “Often when you have the kinds of surge in production that you have with a crop like blueberries, you see some seriously depressed prices, but it seems like every year people want more and more Washington blueberries and we’re in a sweet spot of where demand has been in balance with supply.”

And, with labor in short supply, Dr. Schreiber says growers are working on ways to keep up with demand through mechanization …

SCHREIBER … “They’re modifying harvesters that harvest for processed blueberries and they also are figuring out what varieties are best adapted for fresh harvest by machines.”

He says they’re also looking at which kinds of berries lend themselves best to machine harvesting …

SCHREIBER … “It is certain varieties, not necessarily based on size, but it has to do with firmness of the berry. Draper is an example of something that can be picked machine harvest better than some other varieties and perhaps the first pass through you can machine pick, then you have to have workers come in and hand pick the remaining picks.”

Dr. Schreiber says processed blueberries are all harvested by machine, but fresh market berries have to be handled more carefully for presentation purposes. About 60% of Washington blueberries are grown for the processed market while 40% are sold fresh.

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