Harvesting success from kumara grower feedback

Harvesting success from kumara grower feedback

Seeking customer feedback is the backbone of any good business. As part of this, FarmShop holds an annual Kumara Gear Day to better understand the needs of its customers in this niche industry. 

The last two events have focused on unveiling and trialling a new Carlotti Kumara Harvester – which is a collaboration between FarmShop and Italian machinery specialist, Carlotti. The key goal is to provide an ‘off-the-shelf’ kumara harvester option so that growers do not have to wait for a custom-made one. The machine will be designed to boost productivity and ease the burden of kumara harvesting, which is currently a very manual process. It will also be suitable for potato and other vegetable growers. 

Straight off the production line, this initial prototype was revealed to an enthusiastic audience of around 30 growers who gathered at Riverview Farms in Dargaville last November.

Based on grower feedback from this event, Carlotti returned in May 2023 with an open mind to hear further ideas. 

Regrouping at Taiko Farms in Dargaville, local growers trialled the Carlotti Harvester for about three hours - harvesting in very wet, muddy and difficult conditions. FarmShop is grateful to Luke Posthuma from Growmaps for being such an accommodating host.

In attendance was a well-versed crew to scrutinise this latest model. Carlotti engineer Davide Focci arrived from Italy to Northland’s abysmal weather. Local growers included Fieldco, Growmaps, Northern Wairoa Vegetable Growers and Double O Farms, plus representation from FarmShop’s senior ag technician and sales team. 

What did the team discover?

The day proved invaluable for identifying modifications and hearing first-hand what growers need. 

  • The core digging functionality of the harvester worked well, but Carlotti will be looking at features to combat our wet weather, including self-driving wheels to prevent a tractor getting stuck. 
  • User-comfort features will be considered, including the ability to stand upright when on the machine and not have to lean in, e.g. the main platform will be altered to cater for easier grading of the kumara.
  • Modifying the hydraulic reservoir and water storage will create a better field of vision for the driver (safer too). 
  • Two belts are essential, with the tractor driver being able to vary speeds directly from the tractor seat, especially important in NZ where it’s typically a one-man-band – plus staff on the harvester doing the manual labour. 
  • A longer drawbar to suit typical NZ tractors and allow for more turning space. Also, the steering will become more aggressive. 
  • Cosmetic changes include lights for working into the evening and roll-down sides for shelter from the rain.

Host Luke, who grows Morisaki Reds and Beauregard, had the following feedback:

“It was great Carlotti visited. We tested the harvester in April with FarmShop and it worked very well in dry conditions, so I think these changes might not have been identified if the weather hadn’t played up. The twin belts were good in the right soil conditions. 

The steerable drawbar was great for our hillier sections because it lets you centre the harvester in the row, which was very useful.

I like that it could be a lot more vigorous in removing the soil. On any given day our biggest challenge is getting the product out of the dirt, so the fins on the front webbing that carry the product up at a steep angle were excellent for protecting the kumara - a hydraulic shaker on here would be good at separating the dirt from the kumara without risk of it rolling back down the belts (which can be a nightmare for their delicate skin). Having the fins up allows good control. 

It will be interesting to see what they come back with.” 

The ideas for improvement now sit with Carlotti who is optimistic about a 2024 deadline for the MK2 Harvester.

FarmShop appreciates Carlotti’s commitment to our humble corner of the world. NZ kumara growers have endured three difficult seasons, so these machinery advances to help maximise yields are exciting.

Carlotti has been a specialist in producing harvesters for 67+ years – we are in good hands! 

If you are interested in the new Carlotti Kumara Harvester, please contact the FarmShop team.