16 November 2001

Tuthill out to pluck cider apple profits

WITH yields approaching the 50t/ha mark and orchards becoming ever larger, harvesting apples for the cider industry now calls for a high degree of mechanisation if crops are to be picked quickly, cleanly and damage-free.

A new contender for this potentially lucrative niche market comes in the form of the Tuthill Centipede cider apple harvester which made its debut appearance recently at Bulmers Penrhos Orchard in Herefordshire.

Designed and built by veteran apple picking machinery expert George Tuthill, who has built a series of high capacity pickers for large orchards over the years, the new model is more compact and aimed at the individual primary grower.

"My intention was to build a harvester which could pick fruit gently and cleanly at a rate of 10t an hour, and still be within an individuals price range," explains Mr Tuthill.

The Centipede harvester fits between the tractor and the trailer enabling the operating tractor to both pick and transport apples. Fruit, shaken from the trees, is collected from 6m wide rows using centipede technology – wings to the left and right of the tractor with hydraulically powered, horizontally rotating rubber paddles sweep the apples to a similarly powered vertical paddle collector. This then feeds the elevator which takes the apples to the trailer.

The ability of these collectors to pull fruit out from in between tress means the machines only need to go down the row once, says Mr Tuthill.

Apples directly in front of the tractor are swept into the paths of the collectors by a front mounted horizontal paddle unit.

As yet untried in the testing conditions that can be experienced towards the end of November when there is a surplus of leaves on the ground, Mr Tuthill says he is confident that his machine will cope well.

Price of the complete Centipede apple harvester is £25,000. &#42

George Tuthill with his Centipede apple picker which he says will harvest fruit at the rate of 10t/hour. Note the hydraulically-powered sweeper arms.