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UPFRONT roadtestHARVEST HeightenedThe new harvester filling 10 bins at a time.How do you pick from 40 to 800kg of leaves in three minutes? The secret is in the harvester, says Jase Dobra, manager of Sativa Gardens for Loose Leaf Lettuce Company.Photography Frances Andrijich“We looked at machinery over east, plus in America and Europe. But it was really expensive. Our design is really an adaptation of our original harvester. We just modified it to do bins. It took us a few goes to get it right”Jase Dobra: the harvester has been a gamechanger.vWASo, Jase, is this an off-the-shelf harvester?JASENo. A long-term family friend has just joined our business as a manager. He is a boilermaker, so he and my dad (Kevan Dobra) designed it and made it together. We looked at machinery over east, plus in America and Europe. But it was really expensive. Our design is really an adaptation of our original harvester. We just modified it to do bins. It took us a few goes to get it right.vWAWhat is it primarily used for?JASEIt’s for cutting all our baby leaf, our red and green spinach and rocket. We cut 10 bins at a time. The blades cut off the leaves and the stalks are left behind.vWAWhat prompted you to make it?JASESafety. The idea was to try to get people out of the paddock and to find a safer solution to harvesting our leaves.vWAWhat are other benefits of your bespoke harvester?JASECost savings. There are extremely expensive self-propelled harvesters on the market, but we didn’t want to pay that money. We have built harvesters in the past, so we just decided to create something ourselves that could be towed by tractor. We already owned tractors, so this solution was more cost-effective for us.vWA There must have been production benefits, too?JASEYes, it’s faster. And it’s actually quite a lot faster than the ones we have seen over east. We now cut 800kg in three minutes when before we cut 40kg in the same timeframe. This has meant, however, that we have needed more people in the packing shed.vWAAnd what about savings on expenditure?JASEAnother benefit is it’s reduced our fuel consumption due to running the tractors for shorter periods of time.vWA Do you think you will take it into production?JASE A lot of farmers actually adapt or make their own machinery to suit their farms. So I doubt it, but never say never.
Thank you to the Loose Leaf Lettuce Company for allowing us onto their property. Visit looseleaf.com.au.