Tobacco harvester may help solve farmers’ labor problem
Article Images (Click for larger view)
GCH International Inc. has started marketing its mechanical burley harvester, the Gold Standard Harvesting System (GSHS), which it says will reduce labor requirements by approximately 85 percent per acre (also see “Gold to green,” TFQ, third quarter 2006).
The GSHS requires about 2.7 labor hours to harvest an acre, compared with 65 hours per acre when harvesting manually.
The system was originally developed by engineers at the University of Kentucky to help reduce burley farmers’ labor needs. But by the time the first prototype was tested, in 1985, the availability of migrant workers allowed farmers to sustain the conventional harvesting system, reducing the need for mechanical solutions.
Now, with labor costs soaring again, GCH expects a receptive market for the machine, to which it purchased the rights in 2006.
The GSHS cuts tobacco plants near ground level. Opposed gripper chains grasp and elevate the plants, and then turn them 180 degrees to be hung for curing. Once inverted, opposed notches are cut near the base of each plant, and they are inserted into slotted metal rails 3 inches apart.
Eight metal rails, 14 feet long, are mounted in portable steel curing frames 12 inches apart. After the rails are sequentially filled with plants, support legs are rotated down 90 degrees from their stowed configuration, and the filled portable curing frame is off-loaded from the harvester.
For more information, contact GCH International. Telephone: 502-636-1374; fax: 502-636-0125; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: www.gchintl.com.