GK Machine Inc., is ramping up the marketing of harvesting machinery designed to help strawberry growers cut labor costs.

Strawberry harvesting aid helps farmworker efficiencyThe Donald, Ore.-based farm equipment manufacturer’s hydraulic drive-powered harvest aid includes a conveyor belt shaded by an upper level holding empty flats.

Workers fill the clamshells and place full flats on the belt which carries them to either side for pallet stacking.

“You’re looking at a 38% increase in productivity for growers and pickers just by the pickers not having to carry crates back and forth to the roadways,” said Jim Wolf, salesman. “This allows growers to be a little more flexible in the number of people they have to hire. With labor an issue now, it’s critical they get enough people to harvest the crop.”

Originally designed for one growing operation, GK decided to market it to a broader grower base.

It’s been manufacturing the machinery in full production since 2010 and trying to place more units in the field, Wolf said.

Strawberry harvesting aid helps farmworker efficiencyWhile GK manufactures other contract machinery, including for processed tomatoes, the harvest aid represents its first venture into fresh produce, Wolf said.

It was specifically designed for strawberries but could also be used for other low-growing crops including peppers and squash, Wolf said.

The unit sells for $30,000 and about 250 machines are working in California and Florida fields, Wolf said.