- Vegetables: beans, lentils
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Production Systems: general crop production
This SARE Farmer Rancher grant supported the design and construction of a small edamame or green bean picker. Bean or edamame picking by hand is very slow and limits market growth for small growers. Equipment is available for large growers, but there are no small-scale pickers available for the thousands of small producers that are struggling to make a living by selling for the fresh market. A lack of commercial interest spurs the need for farmer innovation and research into this problem, which affects the viability and sustainability of small growers throughout the north central region. Harvest equipment needs to be designed and manufactured with small growers in mind since most fresh, local produce comes from small farms. Having mechanical harvest options will help raise on-farm income for small growers and ease their workloads, making it more likely that they will be able to continue to produce fresh, local food. This project spurred interest in the small bean picker by two commercial companies. One is Gnismer Farm Equipment (www.gnismerfarmequipment.com) in Riesel, Texas and the other is Marshall Prototyping and Machining (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marshall-Prototyping-Machining/799017476824348) in Columbia, Missouri, who were also responsible for the design of this prototype.
Most edamame in the United States is imported for the frozen food market. Local US production for the fresh food market is growing, but is limited by harvest methods. Edamame can be harvested with a mechanical green bean picker, but commercially available bean pickers are not economically viable for use on small farms. A used Oxbo pull-type bean picker can cost $20,000 and is approximately 16 feet long, making it too large and cumbersome to use on a small farm, as well as too expensive. Picking edamame and bush type green beans by hand is very laborious, not cost effective and not sustainable. Although demand is high and prices can be fairly good for edamame ($8/lb at farmer’s markets), the selling price does not support the cost of harvest labor. This is unfortunate because edamame is very popular amongst children and an excellent healthy substitute for snack foods, such as chips. Making edamame and bean production more feasible and productive for small growers will help raise farm incomes, keep small farmers in business, produce locally available vegetables and provide healthy foods to consumers.
To provide the ability to mechanically harvest edamame and bush beans, Ethan Marshall designed and constructed a new bean picker for small farmers. The design is semi-compact, relatively easy to build for someone with fabrication experience and easy to operate (diagram attached). The cost of materials for the bean picker was $7000. Many of the parts were machined by hand by Ethan, but if the design is picked up by a commercial fabricator or replicated by other farmers, design modifications could allow use of commercially available parts, eliminating the need for custom machining.
The primary objective of this research was to make edamame and bean production more feasible and productive for small growers thereby leading to increased farm incomes, keeping small farmers in business, producing locally available vegetables and providing healthy foods to consumers. This was accomplished by designing and constructing a prototype bean picker for use by small growers.