Which One is for You?
With labor and other costs like insurance going through the roof, coupled with more and more short notice delivery demands being placed on growers by the wineries, the option of mechanical harvesting is not only becoming increasingly attractive, but also a necessity in many cases.
Where it has been adopted, there is no doubting the impact that mechanical grape harvesting has had. It has led to increased efficiencies through improved vineyard management in harvesting the grapes and delivering them to the winery at the optimum time.
It has also dramatically improved the viability and long-term sustainability of the grapegrowing enterprises that have adopted it.
Estimates show that a mechanical grape harvester, in one hour, can harvest the equivalent of 10 hand pickers in a full day.
But the question of cost still has to be asked. Mechanical grape harvesters can generally be divided into three categories:
• Tractor drawn or trailing units;
• Self-propelled; and
• Multi-function machines.
The tractor drawn machines are the cheapest of the alternatives available and have brought the benefits of mechanical harvesting within the reach of many smaller growers.
With self-propelled, the initial capital cost is substantially greater and this extra cost will have to be weighed up against a range of factors, not the least being the number of work hours available and/or achievable if contract harvesting is going to be undertaken.
Growers here also have to weigh up the economics (viability and sustainability) of locking up such a large amount of capital in a machine that may work only two or three months in a year.
Against this, of course, growers must balance the total costs (not only wages but insurance and other costs) of employing labor taking into account the associated time and book work that is now part of being an employer.