"Pick up by hand or with a machine,
that's two different animals.“
Erhard Gneiting and family,
Linsenhofen, Baden-Württemberg, D
- Location in the "Streuobstparadies" in the "Neuffener Täle".
- around 300 fruit trees
- A lot of experience with harvesting technology in the fruit-growing sector
- Processing of large quantities into juice, must and noble brandies
- Member of various clubs (e.g. "Wiesenobst")
- Use of Obstraupe for exclusive products and
for flexibility requirements.
Erhard Gneiting knows what he is talking about when he talks about the advantages and disadvantages of harvesting technology. As a true pioneer and early adopter in this field, he has tested just about every machine that the market for harvesting technology for fruit has had up to now. Together with his son, the technophile farmer personally came to Upper Austria to collect Obstraupe in the summer of 2018. The excellent brandy he brought with him also gave us a positive impression of the refinement of his fruit. On the way back to Germany Mr. Gneiting took over 4 more devices to Germany and inspired us with his commitment.
The family business of the Gneiting family is located in an area which is well known as a "paradise for fruit orchards" beyond the borders of Baden-Württemberg. Scattered fruit forests of large-crowned apple and pear trees characterise this cultural landscape in a way that is second to none.
We meet Mrs. Gneiting at her house and follow her along tree-covered hills to one of her orchards. We immediately get a good impression of the way the Gneiting family works and the logistics involved in harvesting fruit with Obstraupe. On a trailer, which Mr. Gneiting pushes onto the surface, everything necessary for the harvest is stowed away in a space-saving manner: Obstraupe itself including spare batteries, a self-made sorting grid suitable for the own trailer, 5 plastic fruit boxes as well as a good number of almost nostalgic looking wooden boxes, about 40 in number, which still come from the grandfather and still find best use.
"The machine can simply be plucked down
from the trailer in teams of two.“
Mrs. Gneiting willingly gave us information about her experiences with the harvest. It was her, who mostly harvested with Obstraupe in this rich fruit year, in which the machine was almost continuously in use for individual varieties. Since Mrs. Gneiting prefers to harvest on her feet or while walking, bending down on the ground is not one of her favourite activities at all. So she was very enthusiastic about the help from Obstraupe. She praises the light construction of the device, which can be simply "plucked down" from the trailer by two people. In the past, they had already used machines that could only be brought onto the surface very laboriously due to the high weight. Another positive consequence of the low weight for them is that the machine is easy to push, even if the terrain is not completely level and even. The rubber fins help to drive the machine by rotating it forward. They consider the size of the fruit box to be just right, as it is possible to harvest for longer periods of time with the machine without exhaustion.
"If you want to use fruit harvesting machines
you can't be too lazy to mow.
You must have the grass under control."
The role of Obstraupe in their business was clear to Erhard Gneiting, an experienced harvesting technician, from the very beginning. There are a total of around 300 trees of the best age on their site, which can produce huge quantities. For the mass of fruit that was particularly large this year, a self-propelled harvester including driver from a neighbouring village is "rented" for 35 € / h, which is designed for enormous capacity. "The self-propelled harvester is there for 1 hour and then there are a good 2 tons on the trailer," explains one of the two sons, who has just come from the self-propelled harvester. Senior Gneiting continues to amuse us with the explanation: "I am Swabian after all. At 35 € per hour - there must be something going on". He clearly intended Obstraupe for harvesting individual varieties and for special needs for flexibility. These trees should be harvested continuously, also for quality reasons. In addition, there are areas where the self-propelled harvester finds it difficult or even impossible to get his job done. This year, many branches of the trees have to be supported to prevent breaking. These supports, however, make harvesting with a self-propelled machine more difficult in many places. Exactly on one of these areas he now shows us how he can "make metres" here with Obstraupe, even if there is not much space, and how he can fill his wooden boxes in the blink of an eye.
"Grass and meadow management are the be-all and end-all.
The change from manual fruit collection to the use of fruit harvest technology requires a new mindset!"
Gneiting finds clear words for the handling of longer grass with the harvest in traditional orchards: "If you want to pick up with the machine, you must not be too lazy to mow. You must have the grass under control". When testing with different machines, this is a credo that runs through. Building on his many years of experience, he describes his approach to meadow management to us:
Every machine needs a certain grass length in order to work optimally. In his opinion, 15 cm are ideal - this is not any different with Obstraupe, he emphasises, although the self-propelled machine can even handle much longer grass.
Grass and meadow management are the be-all and end-all. There it needs a rethinking of the manual collecting! If you mow shortly before, the grass remains naturally in the ground and is then picked up by the machine. Gneiting mows preferably with mulchers. First you mow with a hammer mulcher and then 2x with a sickle mulcher with extension arm. With a lawn mower he mows only where he cannot get to with the mulchers e.g. because of pillars.
"Finally, don't mulch too high grass, that's important," he stresses. The grass must have grown in! According to his experience, mowing should take place 6 weeks before the harvest. At the end there should be grass about 10 cm long. In case of doubt it is better not to mow towards the end if you are unsure because the machine prefers a certain grass length.
"Honestly, I didn't know the demand for Obstraupe was so high, otherwise I would have loaded a few more."
The harvest itself recommends Gneiting, is better to make with the fruit caterpillar in the evening. "Early in the morning, when the grass is wet, this is a problem. The grass sticks everywhere. In the evening when the grass is dry, no problem! If you are collecting on your own, the practice has proved to be to always fill 4 collection boxes and then sort them. Of course, it is better and faster if 1-2 people sort at the same time.
The farmer sees no problem with Obstraupe when it comes to leaves. The majority of the leaves fall is usually after the harvest season. In addition, the fruit has to be re-sorted anyway. For this purpose, the farmer has made his own sorting rack. It is not yet completely optimal because it is still very heavy, which he emphasises as particularly important in practice.
After the harvest demonstration on the fields, we sit comfortably for a long time at a private brandy tasting in the Gneiting house and get to know the local hospitality and the great brandy.
The "traditional orchard paradise" really seems to be a Mecca for fruit-growers. For local farmers, the tall trunk trees are still an integral part of their culture and this potential is increasingly used by tourism. It is therefore perhaps less surprising that farmers here are intensively involved in various harvesting and logistics concepts in order to optimise the added value of their land. The trip to Linsenhofen was in any case an eye-opener with many new findings that we took with us to Austria!