Imagine producing a bumper crop of blueberries then losing much of your profit margin to harvesting costs. Depending on how the berries are picked, this can be a reality for blueberry producers.
The BlueMax blueberry harvester, which easily attaches to the Walker lawn tractor and other makes of tractors, is attracting attention as a reliable, tough and cost effective unit for producers in the blueberry growing industry.
Bluemax Blueberry Harvester Specs
BlueMax manufactures the only industrial blueberry harvester in Canada. This harvester is less expensive and more manoeuvrable than tractor mounted harvesters and can help producers significantly reduce picking labour costs.
Available in 40” and 48” models, the hydraulically operated BlueMax is efficient and effective. Rake teeth and a rotating broom gently strip the berries from the plants and deposit them into holding chambers. When the chambers are full, the picker head is tilted up and the berries are deposited into blueberry trays. All this is accomplished without the operator ever having left the machine!
Depending on the size of the collection trays used, the 48” harvester can fill 2-3 trays at one time while the 40” harvester can fill 2 trays at a time. Once the trays are full, the operator simply offloads them and replaces with them with empty ones stored on the rear of the tractor.
The BlueMax hydraulics system uses only biodegradable oil. In the case of spillage, this ensures the high quality blueberry crop you worked so hard to produce is protected.
So now we know some specifics about BlueMax, but does this harvester live up to its claims? Who better to ask than a blueberry producer?
Sylvain Gagné, owner and operator of Gagné’s Blueberries on Prince Edward Island, has used a BlueMax for several years to harvest his blueberries and to harvest other growers’ fields. When it comes to reliability, ease of use and maintenance and, of course, productivity, Sylvain relies on his BlueMax.
“I have 40 acres, and for a small producer like me, the BlueMax is perfect,” he explains. “It’s cheaper to buy and easier to run than other harvesters. And, easy to hard, it handles all kinds of fields.”
Gagne knows tough ground. He says growing blueberries on PEI means dealing with more uneven ground and leafier plants than growers in New Brunswick and Northern Quebec deal with.
“With the adjustments that BlueMax has made to the harvester, it works in all kinds of fields here, and it doesn’t miss any berries.”
Downtime for maintenance affects the bottom line of any business, and for Sylvain, the BlueMax measures up.
“I have a Walker Moneygram money order tractor and a BlueMax harvester and the system is really simple. It’s reliable and it’s strong, and if something breaks, you can fix it right away.”
The best part for Gagne: “I bought the machine three years ago, and it’s already paid for itself.”
On average, in PEI, it costs about 35 cents a pound to produce blueberries, while a producer can currently hope to get 70 cents per pound for his crop. Figure in the cost of harvesting the berries and the profit margin can be greatly affected.
For example, handpicking costs 25 cents per pound while paying someone to mechanically harvest berries can cost 14-19 cents per pound, and depending on the field, can soar as high as 50 cents per pound to harvest.
Sylvain says, with the BlueMax he can harvest his acreage for as low as 8-10 cents per pound, greatly increasing his profit margin. Sylvain adds that other growers are taking notice of how inexpensive it is for him to harvest blueberries with the BlueMax.
Another bonus: Sylvain doesn’t have the expense of renting a float to transport his harvester, as he would have to with competitive harvesters.
“When I’m done in the field, I just hook up the trailer to my truck, put the tractor on the trailer and I’m gone.”