Frequently Asked Questions
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Q: Why is a Littau Harvester machine better than hand picking?
A: Berry plants, such as Raspberries, release ripe fruit at an optimum time when the fruit is fully ripe. At this time the berry is as heavy and sweet as it will ever be. Once this time has passed (often a 1-2 day window) the plant regains its previous hold on the fruit. Machine picking can cover much more acreage in a short time, reducing labor, and harvesting the berries quickly to keep them fresh and healthy. Machine harvesting also picks the entire plant, not only what is visible on the outside of the bush. Machine harvesting is a perfect repeatable process set to pick exactly how you configure it, unlike hundreds of hand laborers who have their own opinion of what is under or overripe.
Another advantage of machine harvesting is our cleaner fan system. The cleaner fan system allows the operator to separate debris from the berries and regulates how ripe of berries will be kept or discarded. For example, if an overripe berry is picked by the machine the cleaner can be set to remove it before it gets dropped into the crates automatically.
Q: Is it better to rent or buy? Why?
- Are you going to keep this machine for 3 years or more?
- Can you use a tax deduction for the equipment?
- Have you considered the cost of maintaining the harvester?
- Do you have a qualified mechanic available in your area?
- Do you have the resources to pay for the harvester?
If your answer was yes to all of these questions then you may want to own a machine. If your answer was no to any of them, renting is likely a better choice.
Q: When is a good time to reserve a rental?
A: Machines are available after season and go fast. As soon as you know what you are looking for contact a Littau Harvester Representative so they can reserve the equipment. Once you have made a choice you should get a contract and place the required deposit on the harvester. Remember the contract is void without the deposit received in the time specified in the contract. After that date the machine will be sold or rented to the next customer.
Q: How long will it take to get a machine?
A: Littau Harvester services hundreds of machines each year. The sooner your machine is scheduled for service the sooner we’ll be able to deliver it to you. Remember, there are hundreds of machines and we can not predict when everyone will call to have service or purchase machines.
Q: What can I pick with a Littau Harvester machine?
A: Red & Black Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Jojoba Beans, Coffee, Saskatoons, Gooseberries, Dwarf Cherry Trees, and many other plants with similar sizes and characteristics.
Q: How many workers are needed to operate a machine?
A: A crew of 4 is standard. However, depending on fruit volume, you may need as few as 1 or as many as 6 to pick effectively.
For example, a crew of 5 would consist of one driver, two sorters, one person stacking crates, and one filling crates. If there is only one operator they would have to be picking into large bins or boxes.
Q: Can machine harvesting damage crops?
A: When harvesting crops with machines there are several possible ways to cause damage to crops. To avoid damage make sure to follow these rules.
- When entering the row always ensure the machine is lined up straight with the row.
- Once the first catchers have engaged the plants and post you can not back up without damage to the plants and machine.
- Always use the least amount of energy to remove berries from the plants by experimenting with machine settings before you harvest.
- Always run conveyor belts as slow as possible to prevent damage.
Q: Does my field need to be set up for it to be machine harvested?
A: Yes. Proper field preparations are very important. Lateral pruning is important. Wide lateral branches hold the catcher system open and cause more fruit to fall to the ground.
Mounding plant beds provides a number of benefits. First, raising the plant allows the catcher system to operate on a narrow profile reducing fruit loss. Raised beds typically have better drainage in wet conditions as well. Also, introducing bedding mulch when raising beds is very good for the plants. Trellising is very helpful to keep plants upright when heavy with fruit.
Direction of plantings can allow sunlight to better enter plants. Irrigation systems need to be an integral part of the field. Headland spacing should allow for trucks and machines for unloading purposes.
Field cover crops between rows helps make them flat and less likely to get muddy.
Elevation should be 3% or less in direction of harvest. Side hill harvesting can be much steeper up to 6%.
Q: Auto steering malfunction
A: Check wire connections and check for sensor failure, or check hydraulic auto steering control value for adjustment.
Q: Erratic hydraulic function
A: Check for low fluid or electrical connections to electric solenoids and switches. Check hydraulic fluid level. Check wire connections to oil cooler auto switch. Check fan for proper operation.
Q: Machine is overheating
A: Radiator may need cleaning. Check for low antifreeze fluid. Fuel filter may be plugged or fuel lines might be pinched.
Q: Engine shutting down
A: Check radiator fluid level. Check radiator to make sure it is clean. Check fan belt for proper tension and check water pump for leaks.
Q: Too many green berries
A: Make sure you are not trying to pick too soon. If picking time is correct, check rod stroke. If stroke is too long, take one weight off of each corner of each head, and experiment with stroke length. Also, experiment with beater speed.
Q: Cups hanging up
A: Cups may be too loose and may need to be adjusted. Check for damaged chain and/or cups. Check cup trays for debris, and clean if necessary.
Q: Inspection belt jumping
A: Check sprockets, check belt adjustment, check for debris, and clean if necessary.
Q: Machine won’t start
A: Check the battery for appropriate voltage and check battery connections. Check glow plug connections or check electric solenoid linkage adjustment.
Q: Machine is smoking and running rough
A: Check fuel lines and fuel filter for debris.
Q: The rear wheels won’t turn
A: Pressure has dropped which causes wheel lockup. Check hydraulic fluid level. If the level is correct and pressure on the brake release ranges from 250 psi to 300 psi, you can manually release brakes by installing 5/16 1” coarse thread bolt.
Q: The machine won’t raise or lower
A: Check for low hydraulic fluid and check all switch connections and solenoid wire connections.
Q: Not getting enough fruit
A: First, increase beater speed. If beater speed is at full capacity, then add weights to lengthen stroke.
Q: Cup chain wear
A: Check all wear strips and wear points. If needed, replace cup chain.
Q: No power into the wheels
A: Check hydraulic oil fluid level. If machine has Char-Lynn drive motors, check forward/reverse torque; if torque appears smoother in reverse then the motor needs new timing gears installed.
Q: Machine won’t level out
A: Check electrical connections to auto level box and check all limit switch connections and switches. Check linkages to limits for damage.