13 November 1998

Taking care of apples

CIDER apples, harvested mech-anically when they have fallen to the orchard floor, are prone to being contaminated with leaves, twigs and other rubbish. The extent of the problem is such, that at Bulmers cider works at Hereford, the disposal of extraneous matter is claimed to be costing up to £1000 per week.

Efforts to solve the problem have resulted in the construction of a new harvester which, with its cleaning systems, is claimed to produce cleaner samples and cause less bruising than existing systems.

Built by Pattenden Machinery of Ledbury to a Bulmer specification, the machine comprises four basic sections – the header, elevator, cleaner and collection hopper. The whole unit, which relies entirely on hydraulic drives, is mounted on a 90hp Landini tractor.

Rubber paddles on the 2m wide header first sweep the apples onto a conveyor which takes them to the elevator. This lifts them up and over the tractor on the way to a linkage-mounted 3.5t hopper.

But before entering the hopper, the apples pass through a cleaning section which uses fan generated air to separate out the debris. &#42