Orchardist’s idea wins award
Havelock North fruitgrower Graeme Wake was last night awarded the Fourneaux trophy for coming up with an idea that can make life a little easier for his fellow orchardists.
It’s a mobile platform (above) able to carry up to six workers to prune, and then tuck and tie branches.
The labour-saving device also helps with the budget.
Earlier this month Mr Wake had four workers take eight days to do a job that would usually have taken up to 20 days.
He estimates he saved $2000 in wages alone.
The Fourneaux trophy is awarded annually by Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers’ Association to an orchardist who comes up with the best invention for use in the orchards.
Mr Wake was named ahead of two other entrants at last night‘s association pre-season meeting.
After accepting the trophy, Mr Wake explained that while the platform was his idea, the engineer who built it was John Thornburrow, lkanui Orchard Engineering Ltd.
Mr Wake intends using the platform for fruit thinning as well as pruning.
He said that after Mr Thornburrow had ﬁnished turning his idea into a practical machine for orchards “we did not have to do a single modification”.
Mr Thornburrow, while designing a slow moving platform, recalled similar ideas he had discussed 10 years earlier with the late David Horrocks.
But standard trees were too tall for platforms. It was not until the Ebrotrellis system was used that platforms appeared to have a place, Mr Thornburrow said.
The platform steers itself along the rows and sets the pace of work by its speed.
It can be set to move at l00 metres an hour or at any pace up to a kilometre an hour.
“It keeps workers at the job, that’s the big thing,” says Mr Wake.
“It’s not hard on them because they are standing in one place.”
He will put a cover over the platform to protect workers from the sun.
The platforms on the prototype machine can be arranged in various conﬁgurations for the machine to be used on most of the modern hedgerow planting systems such as the Tatura trellis, A-frame, stonefruit hedgerows and kiwifruit pergolas, he says.
The machine uses the engine from his orchard ladders, a 10hp Kohler petrol engine, and a hydraulic drive to the rear wheels.
Steering is automatic. lf the machine moves off a straight line a plastic tipped wand on either side and forward of the front axle rubs against a tree trunk. The movement of the wand pushes a lever to alter the course of the platform.
Finger pressure is sufficient to move the wand and alter the steering, he says.
Workers can stop and start the machine from the top platform if they get to a difﬁcult tree.
The mobile platform was used to carry four workers who worked at what would have been above-head height if they were on the ground.
Four self-propelled hydraulic ladders to lift them to the same height would cost about $32,000, Mr Thornburrow says.
Each of four workers with a hydraulic ladder would set his own pace. On the platform, the pace is set by its speed, and possibly the fastest worker in the team of four.
Mr Wake says working together on the platform creates a pleasant working environment.
Mr Thornburrow says he intends building mobile platforms with modiﬁcations to the prototype.