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Mechanical coffee harvesting equipment: Mechanisation on the farm

From the January 2012 issue.

Mechanical coffee harvesting has been seen by some as a step away from quality selection. Experts in nations where labour costs are high, however, argue that technology in picking is inevitable when economies of scale take hold.

Mechanical coffee havestingThe 2005 award-winning documentary Our Daily Bread serves a wake-up call to the realities of modern food production.

Stark industrial shots of factory rows of vegetables, conveyor belt cultivation and mechanical tree shakers paint a portrait of the actualities of agriculture in modern-day developed countries. Where labour costs are high and land is scarce and costly, efficiency through technology has become a vital component of keeping food prices affordable. For most rich countries, gone are the days of the family farm. They have not been spared from economies of scale.

With most coffee production taking place in developing nations, however, coffee cultivation has largely been spared the advent of mechanisation. Farm workers lugging baskets of cherries they hand-pick off trees is often the norm, where low costs of labour and limited access to technology make hand cultivation possible. Selective picking has become a popular term in the specialty coffee community, where this process of cultivation has become associated with quality coffee. It’s an association, however, that isn’t being universally welcomed.

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