Micro picking machine for hobby growers

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sashurlow

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Hey all,
I just read a post about a hops picking machine and noticed that all the posts are for a small farm. GVH Dan mentioned prototyping one based off of a hand drill. Has anyone attempted to make something small, cheap and simple for the hobby grower? Last year I was dreading picking so much that I wasted most my harvest, and I only have 8 plants.
Based on what I have seen, mostly Dan's work, it would be pretty simple to make one out of plywood that is 6-8 inches wide. What are the secrets to picking fingers?
 

signpost

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If you are successful in coming up with a design, I'd be interested in stealing it. Er.... um.. I mean borrowing.

I'm just growing hops for the first time, but the harvesting seems to be the biggest pain. It would be cool to figure out some way to automate it in some way.
 

Pscdouglas

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Hey all,
I just read a post about a hops picking machine and noticed that all the posts are for a small farm. GVH Dan mentioned prototyping one based off of a hand drill. Has anyone attempted to make something small, cheap and simple for the hobby grower? Last year I was dreading picking so much that I wasted most my harvest, and I only have 8 plants.
Based on what I have seen, mostly Dan's work, it would be pretty simple to make one out of plywood that is 6-8 inches wide. What are the secrets to picking fingers?
Can you post a link to this? I'm interested!! I'm pretty handy but can't see this in my minds eye to be any more efficient than hand picking for less than a dozen plants or so. I have 6 heavy producers and I can get them all picked by hand in two late August evenings after work :) :mug:
 

day_trippr

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By my records it takes me roughly 1.5 hours of "harvesting" per dried pound of hops, nearly all of that popping cones off bines, the rest loading and rotating oast trays and eventually vac-bagging.

I'd love a way to knock an hour or more off that metric, because frankly if I can't get a harvest done on a weekend day, those hops end up being very expensive indeed.

I picture a squared trough with a whirling fingered wheel near the middle that one would manually drag a bine through. The trick is to free all the cones without macerating them...

Cheers!
 
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sashurlow

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Something about the sticky, prickly hops being picked by the hundreds is not fun to me. At least they smell incredible. I'm imagining something that leaves a pile of cones and leaves and then picking out the cones from the leaves by hand. It may take the same amount of time but give less frustration.
I haven't seen a hops harvester myself so I can only imagine if this would work but basically a plywood square tunnel. The axle would be a 1 inch dowel. In that would be wires in the shapes of a square. The wire would go through a small hole in the axle and wrap around the axle on the opposite side of the picker side. The pickers would come down to a 1/2 inch from the plywood base. Four sets in an "X" shape. The motor would be a drill or something like that rotating clockwise. That's my idea but have zero clue if it would work or not. My questions about this idea would be how thick should he wire be and would a basic square shape do the job?
 

GVH_Dan

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Hey guys, I'm looking for a picture to show you all but the "mini" unit we had built was basically set of picking fingers mounted on a rotating bar...if you look around for the Bine 3060 videos you should be able to see it in action. If you can mount about 4 picking fingers on a rotating bar, you should be able to pick a bine rapidly.

The problem then becomes sorting...so get yourself a leaf blower. Big side arms are easy to pick out so you will be left with a pile of cones and leaves. Pour them from the top of a step ladder through the air stream of a leafblower (or maybe a strong box fan) and the little leaves will blow away, hopefully.

One other picker that may work. I saw a guy in CA that had what looked like a guillotine. It was a blade on bottom with a blade on top that was weighted but still able to move. He would pull the side arms through it to allow the cones to be popped off. It worked well for him, on the video, but I never tried it myself.
 
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sashurlow

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What is so special about the shape of a picking finger? Google does not help me out that much. Apparently there is not a huge interested in Hops Picking Fingers in the image dictionary. Would a basic rectangle do it or is there a reason they are triangular in shape?
I'm less concerned about separating the hops from the leaves. I'd imagine that shaking a garbage can full of debris will have most the hops settle to the bottom. Then just spread them on my porch and pick the hops out by hand. In my mind this is less tedious than picking them off the vine.
The thing that stinks about this project is that when I am done with it, I'm going to have to wait till fall to get testing material. It will stay in the idea stage until I am good and ready or just really bored.
 

GVH_Dan

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In this presentation, on page 14 is a bar with several picking fingers from dauenhauer installed.

http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/Callahan_Mobile_Hop_Picker_3_19_2012.pdf They come to a triangular point.

Yeah, the timing sucks and there's not much else you can try it out on that is similar. When we made our first prototypes, we would make 2 or 3 so we could try them all out to see what works. Then rush back to make improvements to test out before the hand harvesters pulled the whole crop in.
 
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sashurlow

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I saw those but those are used with two opposing rows of fingers picking at the vine. The fingers would not be scraping a metal surface. I'm sure there is a reason why that has been the established technique but I don't have that kind of space or engineering skills.
Is this the shape you go with the Bine's? I would basically be making a micro version of your Bine. Can you share a trade secret with a random stranger online? I work in a hospital lab and am riddled with student dept. I swear I do not have the resources to steal any ideas commercially. :)
Thanks,
 

GVH_Dan

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Those are the exact picking fingers we use. And its just a bunch of those mounted in 4 rows on a single barrel that keeps spinning. All we give it is a flat metal plate to lay the bine on while the picking fingers scrape across the top.

I'm traveling at the moment but I'll send a picture when I get home.
 
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sashurlow

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Here is my first attempt at the pickers. They came from an unused tomato cage. They are all 8.25 inches long and bent using a guide and eyeballing it next to the previous. The axle is 1.25 inch dowel and they are wired to it. The wiring is quite ugly but they can all move independently of each other. Up next is to put the screw that will attach this to a drill in and make the box to put it in.

hops picker.jpg
 

day_trippr

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I'm liking the fingers, but I predict the wiring will last for 3 +/-3 seconds.
There's gotta be a stronger method...

Cheers!
 
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sashurlow

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The wires go through a hole to the other side, wrap around the outside back to the original side and then wrap around the base of the wires before they went into the hole. Consequently, the other side is doing the same thing in the same hole. Its a mess but I'm pretty certain they will last at least 3 minutes and hopefully a "lifetime". The wires are also 17 gauge aluminum, made for electric fences.
 

HopStalker

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I like the shape that you were able to get your fingers. I'm no expert. I dropped out of the engineering program at UVM about 17 years ago, but I kind of agree with day_trippr about the strength. I think you could make the fingers a lot stronger if you twisted the loops 90 degrees and attached them with staple type of things like these:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Gardner-...Non-Metallic-Cables-100-Pack-MS-175/100036901

Also consider overlapping them to make them stronger like as shown on slide 13 of this presentation (there is an idea for clips/ staples too):

http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/Callahan_Mobile_Hop_Picker_3_19_2012.pdf
 

HopStalker

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Here's an idea that I have - I'm just brainstorming. The view I'm showing is looking down the axle. The center is something like a 2x2 with the corners knocked off with a router or table saw to create a cross. Then the picker fingers stick into the cross and are attached with set screws.

hop picker.png
 
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sashurlow

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Hopstalker... If you look at the real deal, the fingers can move. This is why I wanted to wire them in. If they don't have to move, then making the fingers longer and lacing then through the axle and then bending the ends would be very secure as well.
If anyone thinks they have a better idea, please try to make something. A building challenge, winner takes all (by "all" I mean their personal hops picker). More ideas the better.
For now I'm going with what I currently got. When its done I will stick a tree branch in there to test its durability.
Thanks for the posts and critiques.
 

GVH_Dan

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Gotta agree on the wire and hopstalker is going in the right direction.

My suggestion, take your picking fingers and bend the eyelet (where the wire currently is) to a 90 degree angle. Then use a screw with a large head to screw them all into a wooden dowel. That should give you the rigidity you need.

Another comment, you said something about the fingers moving? The fingers are mounted solidly on the dowel or whatever you mount them on. So they don't move in relation to the surface they are mounted on, its just that the surface spins.
 
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sashurlow

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Somehow I saw that the pickers are mounted onto a bar and that bar has the ability to rotate. What I don't want to happen is the pickers to get bent backwards from the friction of rubbing against the hops vine.
I have another piece of dowel so I will try two options and see where it goes.
 

tjpfeister

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I'm pretty sure that they are supposed to bend backwards while working... under spring pressure. That's why all those dauenhauer ones have a spring section in them.
 
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sashurlow

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Here is my latest. Its got some features people recommended. The fingers overlap each other and there is no wiring. The fingers go through the axle and the tips are bent. They are very secure. I'm also including a picture of my bending jig. Its give the fingers their original shape and then a pair of pliers finish the bending.
I'm going to make one more axle that will be the "outside the box" attempt.

005resize.jpg


003resize.jpg
 
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sashurlow

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Survey Says... It works. Possibly too well. I have a teamaker hop that will probably get replaced this spring so I have plenty of hops to play with. It kinda rips the cones to pieces. I made it to have adjustable height from the base and will play with the speed of the drill next (with a clamp on the trigger). So far any height still rips the cones but the highest has the greatest control. I am also using my earlier creation, not the one in the post directly before this one.
So a little bit of playing but initial signs are very hop-full (unfortunately, I had to).
 
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sashurlow

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And after speed control... It really does work. It does leave you a pile of hops and leaves. Picking through this may be its down fall. Without the separator, time may be equal to hand picking. Now I need to come up with a simple separator. I may just try to make some drying racks and put a box fan on full blast and hopefully the leaves will surface and blow away. The yield will me lower because some of the cones will be demolished.
As far as speed control I used one of these (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Leviton-SureSlide-600-Watt-Dimmer-White-R70-06631-1LW/202051149 ) and mounted it to male and female plugs. The drill attached to this. Slower speeds still removed the cones but did not dismantle them.
I'll post pics soon.
 

GVH_Dan

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You have the right idea on separation. Just set out a tarp, put a box fan on a table and pour the mixture of hops and leaves in front of it. If that's not enough velocity to get separation, try a leaf blower. Obviously, do this when they are first picked.
 
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sashurlow

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Thanks for the idea Dan. The dryness definitely is a factor. I had some hops that were drying for two days and the difference of survivability was night and day. The dry hops got demolished. I can fully imagine that they will be easier to separate still wet too.
Of the three factors I could play with (I used two finger designs, they could be adjusted by height and the speed of the rotations), the RPM's were the biggest factor.
If anyone wants to try something, please do. This is an idea that can go somewhere if a good design can be found. I used almost entirely scrap lumber so this project was almost free.
 

tjpfeister

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Reviving this thread.
So I contacted dauenhauer and they sell the picking fingers in boxes of 1000 for $315.15.
I just put another $300 into my trellis this year, so that source for fingers goes out the window for me, unless like 10 of us want to go in on a box.
All I know is that I need a mechanical way of harvesting my 66 plants to cut down on man-hours and family complaints. So let us continue discussing micro picking!
 

Hayden80

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Reviving this thread.
So I contacted dauenhauer and they sell the picking fingers in boxes of 1000 for $315.15.
I just put another $300 into my trellis this year, so that source for fingers goes out the window for me, unless like 10 of us want to go in on a box.
All I know is that I need a mechanical way of harvesting my 66 plants to cut down on man-hours and family complaints. So let us continue discussing micro picking!
I may have missed it, but is there a link for these? Depending on how they work, I would be interested in being one of the 10 people to throw in on this.
 

rhoadsrage

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In a home coffee roasting thread (maybe on here) someone made a coffee bean air circulatory that blew off the parchment. It was essentially a fan that sat on legs and a "bucket" made out of screen sat on top. When the fan was turned on the parchment blew out of the top but the beans floated around to dense to get up over the bucket sides. I can't find a picture of it on here, but on a rheostat you could control the air flow to keep hops in while sending leafs out.

And after speed control... It really does work. It does leave you a pile of hops and leaves. Picking through this may be its down fall. Without the separator, time may be equal to hand picking. Now I need to come up with a simple separator. I may just try to make some drying racks and put a box fan on full blast and hopefully the leaves will surface and blow away. The yield will me lower because some of the cones will be demolished.
As far as speed control I used one of these (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Leviton-SureSlide-600-Watt-Dimmer-White-R70-06631-1LW/202051149 ) and mounted it to male and female plugs. The drill attached to this. Slower speeds still removed the cones but did not dismantle them.
I'll post pics soon.
 

Madthinker

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You might also consider a router speed control from harbor freight, currently on sale 19.99. I use one for my laser exhaust fan system and it seems to work well. I might also try something with the shop vac/blower for leaf separation if i can get a decent harvest this year.
 
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sashurlow

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If you follow the links in this post to one that GVH Dan posted (#9), the last poster on that thread was nagmay and they suggested a link to this rake... http://www.forestry-suppliers.com/p...835&title=The Groundskeeper II Full-Size Rake
For one, I would love to hear from Nagmay if it worked. For two, there are some possible finger pickers that are 7 for 7 dollars.
From my experiments, the shape of the picker was not a huge deal. It was the speed of the rotations and how fresh the hops were. Wet hops survived the process much much better than dry ones. After that, it was separating the hops from the leaves.
For me personally, unless the rake does something, my 5-8 plants are getting done by hand and the thing I created no longer exists. It was a fun experiment, however.
 

tjpfeister

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I suppose running those rake fingers backwards would keep them from ripping things up.
 
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sashurlow

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Or you could bend the ends to the other half and make your triangle that way. I also wonder how much damage the wire ends would do if you keep the rotations to a lower speed.
Good luck.
 

nagmay

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If you follow the links in this post to one that GVH Dan posted (#9), the last poster on that thread was nagmay and they suggested a link to this rake... http://www.forestry-suppliers.com/product_pages/Products.asp?mi=48840&itemnum=33835&title=The Groundskeeper II Full-Size Rake
For one, I would love to hear from Nagmay if it worked.
It did work - sort of. I tacked the ends together and sure enough it popped the cones right off... unfortunately, it also sent them flying. In the end, it didn't save me much time for the 2017 harvest.

Right now, I'm working on something a bit bigger and more contained. Taking inspiration from this thread and the "crafty hop plucker", i'm putting together a single rotor with picking fingers sourced from sea-to-sky. They are meant for the Wolf 140/170. Ordered 56 with overnight shipping for about $70US. Cross my fingers that they show up tomorrow.

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 1.17.08 PM.png
 
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nagmay

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That looks... dangerous. XD
It's actually surprisingly safe... no, really.

The picking fingers are slower than they appear in the video - only about 3 rotations per second. This combined with the slope of the fingers means that you can "safely" place your hand against them without major issue. As a basic safety measure, I also hooked the motor up to a cheap dead-man foot pedal. This way it only runs when your foot is on the pedal. Seemed to work well.

Took about 3 hours to pick 40 mature plants - half a day and the whole yard was down, stripped, sorted, and ready to dry. Last year it took about 30 hours for the same yard.

I already have some big ideas to improve the design, but for a quick build, I was impressed with how well it worked.

IMG_0644.jpg
 

Apimyces

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Nice.

Yea the only thing I find is that you had your hands too close to the spinner for my tastes. Just a foot further back would be good.! ;)
 

TC3857

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Nice design! Did you ever write up any of the details or make any improvements to it? I think I can figure out most of the design based on the video but it doesn't hurt to have a good reference.
 

nagmay

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Not yet, but I'll likely update it as summer rolls around and picking season approaches.

The big change I would like to make is to remove (most of) the current enclosure. At the time, I had to make it big enough to be stable, but it's bulky to move around and a pain to store when not in use.

Instead, I plan to strap the spindle directly to the bed of my truck. This way, on picking day, it can be set up and driven out to fields. With only a minimal enclosure, I should be able to get the cones to fall in the bed.
 
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