The cost and availability of labour means harvest is an ever-more stressful period of year, with time constraints, disease and weather working together to keep pickers at a premium. Add to that a general labour shortage, and your average vineyard manager is often left with a headache.

Enter the New Holland Braud grape harvester – this impressive looking machine looks set to revolutionise grape harvesting in the UK, overcoming labour shortages and short weather windows with its ability to harvest when the grapes are at their best, rather than when the pickers are on site. 

The grape harvester employs a unique shaker system to gently shake the grapes from the vine, which then fall into ‘Noria’ buckets, two rows of flexible containers that act like a zip, cupping underneath the vine leaving almost no gaps for grapes to fall through.  

From here, the grapes are carried to the top of the machine where two cross conveyors allow overhead fans to remove any leaves and debris, before the grapes land on the sieves. Any single grapes fall straight through into the hoppers below, while bunches are fed into three rows of de-stemmer fingers to prise any hangers-on away from the last Material Other than Grape (MOG).

A recent demonstration in Kent produced a very clean sample with very little juice,  rows were harvested in a fraction of the time usually set aside for manual harvesting with comparable losses. Unloading direct into dolavs proved much easier than at first anticipated, the hoppers being narrow enough to unload accurately – either from in-cab or using the supplied remote.  

The operator is made comfortable in New Holland’s Blue Cab 4 cabin with carbon filtration, while the Intelliview IV touchscreen makes operation simple and intuitive, with adjustments easily made on the go. Options for cameras around the machine means monitoring the presentation of the grapes to the sieves is easy, and another up front allows the harvester to track its own progress down the rows, meaning full attention can be given to the grapes as they make their way from vine to hopper. 

The machine can auto-level, compensating for up to a 30% side slope, and hydrostatically driven 4WD and 90˚  steering means the turning circle is tight enough to make small headlands manageable. 

One of the best features of the machine is its flexibility; the harvesting head can be removed from the machine to allow other tools to be fitted – a Berthoud Cruis’Air four row sprayer is a good fit for example, and will run through the integrated Intelliview IV screen. Using the optional front tool carrier allows the use of trimmers or pre-pruners, meaning that the grape harvester can be a frequent sight in the vines throughout the year. 

The New Holland grape harvester is available from New Holland dealerships UK wide, and enjoys excellent dealer and manufacturer support, with the UK’s first demonstration unit being operated this year by Richard Smith at Haynes Agricultural.