Mobile Hops Harvester Makes Hops a High-Value Small-Scale Crop
- By Robin Lockerby
The local foods movement has moved into the beverage sector. Regional brewers seek local hops for locally-branded, unique, high-quality beers. Farmers have the opportunity to produce a high-value crop and improve farm viability though the reintroduction of hops to the Northeast. This required scale-appropriate harvest and processing equipment, none of which existed in the area.
A mobile, trailer-based mechanized hop harvester was developed and documented as an open-source design for others to replicate. The design was the result of a collaborative design effort involving growers, brewers, agronomists, fabricators and engineers. Additionally, 255 people have downloaded the plans for the machine and 5 others have built harvesters at least partially informed by this work.
Cooperative use of a single, mobile harvester has been demonstrated allowing one- to two-acre growers a viable option to hand picking; hand picking is labor intensive and can delay harvest which may affect crop quality. A one-acre yard of hops can be harvested with the mobile harvester within eight hours resulting in optimal harvest timing and improved quality. Assuming a harvest team of four people (in either case), this translates to a harvest labor cost savings of 97 percent or $3,120 per acre at $15 per hour wage (approximately $2 per pound of dried hops, at 10 to 20 percent of retail price). The harvester is used each year at multiple farms adding an important local crop to the options available to farmers looking for ways to enhance the viability of their agricultural business. Agriculture is a huge economic engine in Vermont, therefore protecting agricultural business is critical to Vermont’s economic health.
Contact: Chris Callahan, Agricultural Engineer, 802-773-3349, firstname.lastname@example.org