How top fruit growers can save up to 50% on harvesting costs with the Pluk‑O‑Trak.

On 11 May, as part of BIFGA’s technical day, we travelled to Northiam Farm to demonstrate the Pluk‑O‑Trak picking platform and showcase its capabilities.

In 1969, Munckhof proudly introduced its first self-propelled apple harvester, the “Pluk‑O‑Trak”. More than 50 years later, it is still unbeaten and remains the best picking platform on the market.

A perfect solution for today’s orchards with smaller trees and increased planting density, the Pluk-O-Trak Junior model is the most suitable for UK orchards with trees up to 3.5 metres high and rows up to 3.5 metres wide.

Growers can choose from a petrol engine, a fully electrical version, or a larger ‘hybrid XL’ model which features a diesel engine that will work for 1.5 hours before switching back to the battery which will then work for 7 hours.

Known for significantly reducing the amount of labour required, growers can save up to 50% on harvesting costs.

With the Pluk-O-Trak Junior, four to six people can pick fruit from the ground, with another two working from the platforms. The only activity carried out by these workers is picking fruit.

The Pluk-O-Trak then makes sure all the fruit gets loaded into the bins, ready for collection from the row and transportation to the farm.

It even has an onboard computer, the M-Connect harvest registration system, which automatically records key harvest data allowing growers to track and trace fruit from the tree to the cold store.

Using an RFDI tag or barcode on each bin, the M-Connect collects information on the GPS position of the full bins, the time it took to fill each bin, and when the pickers clocked in and out. When fitted with an optional camera system, it can also record the number of fruits, their size, colouration and quality/class.

Despite the machine’s capabilities, limited time needs to be spent training workers. The easy-to-understand push buttons and joystick can be operated by most, which means that new picking crews can start working after a brief introduction.

The bin trailer, which tows up to 16 bins behind the harvester, is also a key part of the Pluk-O-Trak system, which does away with the need for pre-positioning bins in the row.

When the bin on the harvester is full, it is lowered to the ground. It passes under the trailer as a new bin is loaded onto the harvester’s turntable, manually or via an electronically operated pump.

This ensures that there are no half-filled or over-filled bins left behind, and the full bins are also always evenly loaded thanks to the turntable, which rotates as fruit is fed in via the conveyor belts.

For peak efficiency, harvesting operations are barely interrupted, and growers using the Pluk-O-Trak have recorded picking performances over 40% higher than traditional methods.

Another remarkable feature of the Pluk-O-Trak is the gentle handling of the fruit. Pickers remove the fruit from the tree and place it on one of four-fingered conveyor belts. These have been designed to carry the fruit carefully to the ultra-sensitive rotating bin filler without bruising. The fruit is then conveyed, not dropped into the bin, via this filler which automatically raises in height as the bin is filled.

As such, those using the Munckhof Pluk-O-Trak have noted its ability to reduce damage to fruit by at least 50% compared to conventional harvesting methods.

A versatile machine, the Pluk-O-Trak can be used in all seasons. The platforms enable workers to access all levels of the tree without ladders. They can be quickly re-configured to serve as a platform for pruning, hand thinning, trellis maintenance and netting work. Growers have noted up to 35% savings on pruning and thinning costs when using the platform.

Well suited to the UK’s weather, the Junior model is a compact, lightweight, agile machine that can still be operated on slopes or muddy terrain. It can also be equipped with an intelligent variable straight-line control that automatically navigates through the centre, even when trees are crooked or on slopes.

Finally, the Pluk‑O‑Trak also benefits from low running and maintenance costs as, despite its small size, the economical 13 HP Honda engine can run at a high idle, limiting noise, saving fuel and reducing engine wear. According to Munckhof, over 95% of machines sold 35 years ago are still running, which means high resale value too.

For more information on the Munckhof Pluk-O-Trak, as well as the Munckhof machines NP Seymour offers, please phone the office on 01580 712200 or email sales@npseymour.co.uk.