(Feb. 26) TULARE, Calif. –– Grower-shippers got their first look at what may be a major breakthrough in the labor-intensive lettuce industry at the recent World Ag Expo, Tulare.

The breakthrough is the Headrazor, a mechanical lettuce harvester designed and developed by Ramsay Highlander Inc., Gonzales.

“This harvester will cut by about half the usual crew required for lettuce harvesting,” said Chris Garnett, vice president of marketing and sales for Ramsay Highlander.

More than a year in development, the Headrazor is made almost entirely of stainless steel, including the band saw-type blade used to cut the lettuce heads. The unit on display at World Ag Expo in mid-February was built for a grower-shipper whose lettuce crops go to a spring mix supplier. But the Headrazor can be adjusted to cut lettuce for retail packaging and can harvest nearly any variety of lettuce, Garnett said.

The average lettuce harvesting crew numbers more than 30 workers, Garnett said. With the Headrazor, the number of workers is reduced to a maximum of 15, he said.

The price of the harvester is around $300,000, a cost that could be recaptured in labor savings in about two years.

“The Headrazor is designed to handle two 40-inch beds or a single 80-inch bed,” Garnett said.

After cutting the lettuce, a conveyor system carries the heads to the upper section of the two-level harvester where the lettuce is run through an on-board washing process before it is packed. With minor adjustments, the lettuce can be packed in cartons, totes or bins, Garnett said. The packed lettuce is carried to a side of the unit on a conveyor belt for off-loading onto a trailer pulled by a trailing tractor.

Among the breakthrough features of the Headrazor is a compressed air de-leafer that speeds up removal of the outside leaves. It’s just one of several of the harvester’s features for which Ramsay Highlander is seeking patents, Garnett said.

The harvester is about 26 feet long and 8.5 feet wide, but is easily portable.

“Because of the slide-in walkways and other fold-up attachments, the Headrazor can be trailered without permits,” Garnett said.

The harvester is self-powered, using a 175-horsepower John Deere diesel engine, and rides on two tracks per side, which make the unit very stable, Garnett said. The Headrazor’s harvest speed can exceed 3 mph, and a two-speed transmission permits moving the harvester short distances without using a trailer, he said.

Built-in lights on the Headrazor facilitate night harvesting, and an on-board pressure washer enables one worker to clean the entire unit at the end of a workday.

The Ramsay Highlander approach to designing and building the Headrazor, Garnett said, was to make the unit easy to operate and maintain.

The ease of operation extends to maintenance and repair of the Headrazor. The harvester comes with service manuals with all parts numbered, which, Garnett said, permits non-English reading workers to identify needed replacement parts.

The company’s Website is www.ramsayhighlander.com.

Headrazor lettuce harvester trims labor needs
The Headrazor, a mechanical lettuce harvester developed by Ramsay Highlander Inc., Gonzales, Calif., was unveiled at World Ag Expo, Tulare, Calif.