Tulare company shakes it up at farm show

TOL Inc.’s new almond tree shaker named among Top 10 Products at virtual World Ag Expo next month

TULARE – A Tulare company specializing in the design and manufacturing of pruning and harvesting equipment is shaking things up in the almond industry.

TOL Incorporated has been designing, manufacturing and operating machines of all sizes to prune residential to commercial trees. Much of that time was spent in orange groves hedging and topping trees to the right width and height to make them easier to harvest for farmworkers. Now the company has created a shaker that allows almond farmers to do less pruning and harvest more crop without replanting their orchards for mechanical harvesting and while reducing dust.

“We are able to reduce the dust significantly, and anyone who drives through the Valley has seen the amount of dust created during almond harvesting,” TOL CEO and general manager Scott Hermann said.

Typically, almonds are harvested by shaking the trees and letting the nuts hit the ground where they dry inside the hull for 7-10 days. They are then swept into windrows using a “sweeper” machine, a process that creates an enormous amount of dust and adds another step and a significant cost to harvesting. The almonds are then vacuumed up into a cart that brings them to the edge of the orchard for transport.

Hermann said the unique design of TOL’s Twin D T4 shakers allows them to shake, catch, and windrow the nuts without the need to sweep. This process reduces dust by 75 to 90% and has already caught the attention of the California Air Resources Board, the state agency overseeing air pollution, and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, the regional agency responsible for reducing the valley’s air pollution, which is among the worst in the state. Hermann said legislation is already being proposed for the almond industry to reduce dust and the best way for the industry to adjust is to voluntarily take steps to do it before legislators pass burdensome regulations to ensure they do it.

Eliminating use of the sweepers also cuts down on the amount of dirt and dust swept into the nuts during mechanical harvesting and it never lets the crop hit the ground, something the Almond Board of California is pushing for. With increased concerns and attention being drawn to food safety and how our food is harvested, Hermann said the Almond Board has taken an interest in his machine.

“The Almond Board is excited about our equipment. Their goal is to have off-ground harvest in the future,” Hermann said. “Our machine is the solution to making those future goals happen now.”

Off-ground harvest is already required for pistachios because the hulls are split before being harvested. The Twin D T4 can be used for both pistachios and almonds as well as walnuts, pecans and even prunes, which also are also shaken from plum trees and dried before being packed and shipped. Drying nuts in the orchard is also stressful on the trees. Hermann said farmers have to cut off water to almond trees as much as a week and half before and after harvest to prevent mold in the nuts. Almond harvest is also at the height of summer heat in August, when almond trees need water the most.

In addition to harvesting a diversity of crops, Hermann said the Twin D T4 Shaker is more nimble than its current counterparts in the industry. While many shakers require orchard rows to be 24 feet wide, the Twin D T4 can fit in rows as narrow as 18 feet. Hermann said replanting an almond orchard for mechanical harvesting is prohibitively expensive for well established orchards who are already giving up a significant amount of trees by having fewer rows per acre. Existing machines also require as much as 3 feet of clearance from the ground to grab the trunk of the tree for shaking. This means farmers must prune low hanging branches, often giving up a portion of each tree’s yield throughout the entire orchard. TOL’s shaker only needs a foot and half of clearance.

“The younger generation of farmers are looking to new technology for more efficient ways of producing the crop,” Hermann said.

TOL’s shakers were initially born out of the need for off-ground harvest in Israel. In 2014, Hermann said Israeli farmers began asking for machines to harvest almonds without letting the nuts hit the ground. Hermann said it was difficult to sweep the nuts into rows in Israel’s gravelly ground and the dry, clay soil would crack and a portion of the nuts would fall through the cracks and lost to the vacuums that followed the sweepers. Israel’s steep terrain also served as an excellent training ground to ensure the innovative shakers could drive along the slopes of the foothills back home in Valley without tipping over. The shaker was adapted for the California market in 2019, tested in the fields last summer and is now available for purchase for this summer’s harvest.

“The initial reception has been really good,” Hermann said of Valley almond growers.

For more information on the Twin D T4 Shaker, contact TOL by calling 559-686-2844, toll free at 800-732-2142 or emailing [email protected].

Top 10

The Twin D T4 Shaker is just one of the agricultural innovations features on the Top 10 Products list for the all virtual, 2021 World Ag Expo in Tulare sponsored by Bank of America. Another local company, Cainthus in Visalia, is using computer vision and artificial intelligence to monitor behavioral patterns of dairy herds to maximum milk production but also improve animal welfare in its ALUS Behavior system.

The proprietary technology relies on a smart camera system that monitors animal behavior as well as operations on the farm, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and automatically turns visual inputs from cameras into real-time insights. The system passively monitors events like feed deliveries, push-ups and cleanouts and tracks those movements relative to the desired schedule. It enables producers to improve the consistency of their operations, address over or underfeeding post digestive upsets, adapt to weather changes and overall maximize intakes and reduce feed waste.

Cainthus has now installed its technology on several major farms in the U.S., tracking tens of thousands of cows.

Other products on the list are:

  • 125 & 155 water pumps: Ace Pump Corporation introduced new 125 and 155 models of its Pro 5 Series pumps with advanced features to improve reliability and prevent costly downtime.
  • AgCode Passive GPS tool: AgCode’s new Passive GPS-powered data collection tool provides growers detailed insights and unrivaled accuracy on task and equipment activity in the field in real time, all seamlessly integrated into the AgCode farm management software system. Track equipment and labor activities with GPS devices while they happen. Monitor block completion on a daily basis. Gain a clear view of productivity levels and efficiency.
  • ORBIS 900 forage harvester header: International company CLAAS has developed a row-independent forage harvester header that is 30 feet wide, the largest header in the company’s ORBIS line, but can be folded in unfolded in just 22 seconds. A new tilting frame also enables the ORBIS 900 to follow contours of uneven ground for optimal performance.
  • RotaryMATE EXPSplus: Green Source Automation, LLC presents the first rotary dairy robot that automates multiple tasks in the milking parlor including cleaning, sanitizing, stimulating, and teat wiping at speeds up to 4.2 seconds per stall. The increased consistency dairy robots provide in these positions makes for happier, healthier, and more productive cows.
  • LOIS manure treatment: Livestock Water Recycling, one of Canada’s fastest growing technology companies, introduces its first ever machine learning module to optimize manure treatment.
  • Certa-Set CLIC Irrigation System: Houston-based NAPCO Pipe & Fittings offers a leak-free pipe system using a PVC blend that is impact resistant, non corrosive and has UV protection offering increased efficiency, reduced water waste, and reduced labor to reposition your irrigation pipe.
  • RS10 soil sensors: Ranch Systems’ solar powered RS10 uses Bluetooth 5.0 which is capable of reading the sensors at four times the range of legacy Bluetooth devices, enabling deployment of more sensors in fields over a wider area. The real-time soil moisture data to the Ranch Cloud™ field monitoring and control platform.
  • Permanent Crop Analyzer: Indianapolis-based Smart Guided Systems, LLC has developed a utility vehicle add-on kit that uses laser imaging to scan high value permanent crops, giving growers data for analysis. When used with Smart Guided’s Smart Apply Intelligent Spray Control System, growers can identify canopy and foliage density and adapt each sprayer’s nozzle to achieve accurate density-based spraying.

World Ag Expo’s virtual farm show will kick off February 9-11, 2021 – the original show dates. Live events and seminars will be scheduled 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. PST each day, but content will be available on-demand at no charge to attendees around the clock. Plan your visit at www.worldagexpo.org.

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