Deon Both, a mechanical engineer from Patensie in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, has built a useful implement that can harvest cabbages 50% faster than if it is done manually. Based on an American design, the implement has been adapted for South African conditions. We got an exclusive preview of the prototype being tested on a vegetable farm in Loerie, Eastern Cape.
It is a sizzling hot day on the vegetable farm belonging to Rudolf Rose (30) of Ozzie’s Agri in Loerie. In the lands where 20 000 cabbages per hectare are planted, a green John Deere 6108 tractor is slowly pulling the blue vegetable transporter implement (Veggie Carrier 8000) designed by Deon Both (34).
Four workers walk behind the transporter’s 8m-long arm, which is about 750mm above the ground, and deftly harvest the heads of cabbage, which can weigh up to 6kg, with pangas. They place the cabbages on the long, gutter-shaped channel of the transporter which then moves them upwards to the trailer by means of two sets of conveyer belts. At the top where the cabbages drop from the conveyer belt to a platform, two workers grab them and pass them on to two other workers who stack them on the trailer.
By the time the tractor is at the end of the row, the trailer is stacked high with cabbages. When the tractor reaches the end of the field to unhitch the fully-laden trailer and hitch an empty one, the arm of the transporter is simply swung to the front of the tractor hydraulically with the turn of a handle. The couple of minutes that this takes gives the workers a brief moment to catch their breath.
Deon tells us that vegetable farmer Paul du Preez of the farm Buffelshoek near Loerie approached him in 2013 to build the implement, after he had seen it on an American website.
Armed with only a YouTube video clip, and no engineering diagrams, Deon set about designing and building the vegetable transporter. Fortunately, his engineering background stood him in good stead. “Farmers need robust implements that are simple and easy to manage. They get irritated if they have to make adjustments on the lands every few minutes and the harvesting cannot be done quickly,” he says.
The company, Ex-Es Agri Solutions, provided the capital to design the implement, provisionally called the Groente Karweier 8000 (which translates as ‘Veggie Carrier’ 8000).
The transporter has five hydraulic control levers which can make all the necessary adjustments. The conveyer belts are made of green PVC material and each one is driven by a hydraulic motor.
Rudolf is testing the transporter on the request of his neighbour and owner of the implement, Paul du Preez. He is very impressed with it. “During my previous harvest, it took eight workers about two hours to harvest 1000 heads of cabbage, and then we needed a chain of workers to pack the cabbages on the trailer. Now I can load 1500 cabbages an hour on the trailer with the same number of workers. In addition, we don’t use more diesel seeing as the tractor has to tow the trailer through the lands in any event.”
Rudolf says some adjustments may be needed to make the conveyer belt run more smoothly. “Deon did a great job. The prototype that he built works like a dream. It takes a lot of clever brainpower to build such an implement.”
Even the workers harvesting the cabbages during the demonstration agreed that it is less tiring to get the cabbages onto the transporter than to lift them up from the ground and throw them up to the trailer as they had to previously.
Rudolf assures us that a 65kW tractor is capable of pulling the transporter and trailer. The only condition is that the tractor must have a crawler gear because the implement must move very slowly through the field.
Deon is satisfied that the transporter can harvest 1500 heads of cabbage an hour. “It is fast enough and has the advantage that a vegetable farmer can do his logistic planning in order to deliver his crops to market quickly and get the best possible price on any given day.”
He says the transporter can be adapted for crops such as cauliflower and broccoli. All that would need to be adjusted would be the fins on the conveyer belt that move the veggies to the trailer. “They could possibly be made of a softer material to prevent damage to the crops.”
The development costs of the prototype amounted to about R125 000 (K95 000). Deon reckons that if it is commercialised, the price of the transporter would be less than R200 000 (K150 000).
ENQUIRIES: Deon Both, email: email@example.com
CHECK OUT A VIDEO OF THE VEGGIE CARRIER