Variable Gap Pinch Rollers to Remove Plant Debris from Fruits and Vegetables

Technology #13867

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Researchers
Amanda Valentine
Won Suk Lee
Managed By
John Byatt
Assistant Director 352-392-8929
Patent Protection
US Patent 8,956,208

Lowers Transportation Costs and Reduces the Spread of Disease between Crops

Variable gap pinch rollers can be used efficiently to separate plant debris from fruits and vegetables before leaving the field and orchard and in a preparation stage at the processing facility. The equipment not only prepares citrus, corn, and other crops for processing and transport, but it also reduces the spread of diseases that threaten to destroy crops. Commercial growers harvest many crops using machines that shake the fruit or vegetable from the plants. The United States is now the third-largest citrus producer in the world, with Florida’s citrus industry alone valued at around $9 billion a year. In machine citrus harvesting, the product falls into a catch frame or on the ground and is then dumped into a trailer. This harvesting technique is faster than hand-picking, but gathers much undesirable debris (plant leaves, stems, bad fruit, soil, and etc.). Also, diseases spread when leaves and stems infected with bacterial and fungal diseases blow out of trailers as they make their way to processing plants. Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a mobile research platform that utilizes pinch rollers with a variable gap to separate this debris from the fruit. The variable gap size allows the platform to remove debris of all sizes without jamming. The technology, which minimizes the spread of disease and lowers transportation costs, is far more cost-effective than hand-sorting.

Application

Mechanized equipment that conserves time, saves money, and reduces the spread of plant diseases by removing debris from certain harvested crops before it leaves the field and in a preparation stage at the processing facility.

Advantages

  • Removes debris from harvested fruit, reducing the spread of diseases that reduce crop yields
  • Employs an intuitive design, making the equipment user-friendly
  • Faster and easier than cleaning fruit by hand, increasing production and decreasing costs
  • Features a variable gap pinch roller, allowing different sized debris to be removed without jamming

Technology

This technology is incorporated into a mobile platform. The platform’s hydraulic system is designed to function independently or derive energy from other available farm equipment, such as tractors. An operator loads the machine with fruit from the hauling truck or “goat” so that an initial load weight can be recorded. Next, the metering gate is opened, allowing the fruit to flow onto a conveyor, which removes underdeveloped fruit and breaks larger branches into pieces. The horizontal-tine then removes larger branches from the fruit flow. Finally, bars push the fruit through the pinch-roller unit, eliminating smaller twigs and leaves before an output conveyor deposits the fruit into a trailer.