It was a cold morning, crisp but with the promise of a warm and still day. I arrive when it’s still dark in my winter pants and a warm pullover, but I stripped to my day outfit once I had completed the pre-check of my Pellenc 8590.
The shaker arms and axles mounts seemed in good condition, and their was no missing or misaligned collector plates.
The harvester had been washed well after the previous shift, and the various grease nipples showed evidence of at least having received some grease. As I climbed up onto the top of the picking head, I inspected each area, and closed the access hatches which had been left open. Everything was clear, the main belts looked central and the mirrors were clean.
I climb down off the harvester and checked my watch – I’d been here for 1/2 an hour already – but then I had walked around and checked the rest of the harvester.
It was time to go. I climb up into the cab, folded away the ladder, turned on the headlights and rotating beacon, raised the rev’s to about 2000 and crept out of our base. Onto the highway, I raise the revs to the maximum, and I am on my way – to your place.
That coffee I receive once I arrive at the vineyard has just been spooned into the mug, and the jug filled and turned on. I can smell it already.
I arrive at the vineyard 5 minutes late. No one was there waiting for me, but I knew where to go, and as I line myself up to the first row, I switch on the stepping function raising the machine at the same time, then come up to my start point dropping down on the stepped stop-height.
Dropping the rev’s to idle, I check no one is standing outside, then open out the ladder and hope out.
Firstly I check the vine. I check the height of the fruiting zone against that of shaker arms in the machine, and then I check the pinch – over the fruiting zone area. A final walk-around the harvester to confirm everything is in position, before I introduce myself to my client, who has just arrived.
The discussion is simple, after pleasantries are done with, when we discuss what I can and can’t do, but specifically the difficulties regarding removing fruit around posts and the risks in doing so. Without getting too heavy in the discussion, I promise to perform a few rows, stop in-row, and get out and discuss progress.
I start off at 3.5km/hr on fairly mild settings for about 3 bays, and stop and get out. We note the smaller berries not being picked, but some canes being broken, and too much berries still remain on the rachis on the ground. There’s no evidence on the posts that the bottom fans are too high.
I climb back into the cab, lower the amplitude from 95 to 90, increase the frequency from 490 to 500, but add acceleration to 15. I increase the mini-shakers from 750 to 850, and then quickly undertake another 3 bays but this time at 4km/hr.
Most clients would recognise the improvement, and I would counter that after a couple of rows the harvester will warm and will “come to” the task. After finishing the return row, I turn and stop and seek the clients opinion again. The client wants a little more off around the posts, but makes the point he doesn’t want to break any, and is generally happy the rest of the process.
With the easy part done, I then start to focus on post parameters. I start with ensuring the amplitude is at least 5 to 10 lower – the simple reality is that with a post jammed up the middle of the shaker arms their effectiveness is somewhat compromised. I increase the frequency up to 20 to 25 higher, but then I match the increase in pinch around the post with the setting around the canopy. If I can get this right, then theoretically the post sensor switches to the post parameters, by increasing to the correct width of the post, reducing the actual shaking movement and whilst it has no acceleration (ever), it quickly increases the frequency to try and wrap around the back of the post. Because the frequency is higher around the post, then I ensure the post parameters are active for slightly longer than their length (110% usually) to ensure fruit is quickly picked directly after the post, in that dead area where the shaker arms can’t operate because of the restriction. Conversely, if the amplitude is quite low, the picking length is usually 90% to 100%.
By this stage, the client is happy, and I have completed 4 rows.
After emptying, it is now just mileage, and I get into rhythm quickly. The next 4 rows happen in the blink of the eye, but now I’m constantly checking the row beside me and how well the harvester is picking. I’m frequently checking the rear mirror, looking for rachis that may be broken or any fruit remaining on it. The harvester is warming and the picking head is developing the sweet spot, so now I’m pushing the speed, first up to 4.5km/hr, and if the result looks alright, then up to 5.0 and maybe 5.5km/hr, but not without a minute increase to frequency.
Sooner or later, the truck is full and after completing another 4 rows, it has not returned in time for me to empty. This gives me a good chance to give the machine a rest and I lower the rev’s to idle and get out and survey the harvester. Once I am happy with everything there, then I check where I’ve been, looking for what fruit I’ve missed and what is happening around the post…
I remind myself that as the day gets warmer, I am able to travel a little faster, and sometimes can reduce the frequency and amplitude – this is the first thing I forget to reinstate at the end of the day when temperatures get cooler.
That truck is taking it’s time… I want to finish and get going to the next job. Besides, even at this time of the year, my wife still has organised friends coming around for dinner and I don’t want to miss out!