Thursday, September 29, 2011

More harvest updates

We've machine picked the hazels here in Minnesota for the second time; one week after the first picking, and the results were again- better than anticipated. Many bushes which refused to be picked the first time, were very successfully machine picked on the second pass.

Right at the moment, though, our next emergency has arrived. We work with two other crops here, as not too many folks realize; chestnuts and hickory hybrids are also quite important to us.

Because of the rather strange growing season, we've been unsure until quite recently whether we would get any chestnut crop this year or not. They flowered extremely late, in mid July, and developed slowly, as from extreme heat we shifted to cool drought.

All these nut crops have the ability to alter their ripening behavior, from year to year. This year, the chestnuts have decided to all ripen at once; early and late varieties; and in a hurry; many of the nuts now dropping are not fully colored.

Then, today- we've had heavy winds; steady at over 30 mph, gusts over 45 mph, all day-

video
(the quality of this video was low to begin with; shot in very low light- but it looks like Blogger still has no clue about how to handle it. But you get the idea.)

Far far from ideal weather when you have ripe nuts in tall trees-
the wind throws loose nuts far from their normal drop zone; and due to the fuss and hurry associated with the new machine hazel picking- we don't have the chestnut and hickory plantings mowed down tight enough for easy harvest. Too late now. And today; it was really too dangerous to be out in the fields picking up nuts- the air was full of bombs; some of them with not-funny weaponry-

You truly do not want to risk being hit by one of these, flung at 30 mph from a height of 30 ft. Yes, you can wear protective gear, but a hard hat is not enough; you need a heavy jacket at the least- all of which adds up to nearly impossible working conditions.

Tomorrow; we hope. Meanwhile- if you have an urge to help out with harvest- now would be a really good time.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Catching our breath- or not...


The First Minnesota Machine Harvest of hazels went well; we estimate about 20 hard-core hazel growers came to see and investigate, as well as neighbors and folks who were "just interested.

As we use the machine to pick here on Badgersett Farm itself, it dawns on us more and more- the world has changed.

We will certainly be harvesting twice as many hazelnuts this year as last; at least, even with many nuts still left on bushes that refuse to be picked. Part of what that means is- all the other machines needed, huskers, cleaners, etc; are now an order of magnitude too slow.

We did also get great TV coverage from our Rochester Minnesota NBC affiliate, KTTC. I couldn't figure out how to embed the video here, so the link will have to do.

Meanwhile- the other two neohybrid nut crops we work on are just in the early stages of ripeness; and chestnut harvest, and hybrid hickory harvest, are looming. Hazel harvest is NOT finished, meanwhile; we will be machine picking our fields here in Minnesota a second time; about a week from now. The plants definitely have differing maturities, and harvesting bushes within a tiny 3 day window (we've picked everything here, in 3 days) is hardly an accurate idea of what will really respond to the picker. Plus; we're well aware; the hazels with the earliest maturity were picked a month ago. Next year.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hazel Machine Harvest Press Release

This is the official press release we're sending out- if YOU would like to send it on; please do! The photos included here on the blog MAY be good enough for publication; but I never really know what Blogger will do with the pics next. If they're not; email us; and we'll email you publication quality files.


Press Release - 9/20/2011 - For Immediate Release
Attention: TV, Print, Electronic, & Radio

Badgersett Research Corporation: 18606 Deer Rd, Canton, MN USA 55922
phone (888) 557-4211 email: philip.rutter@badgersett.com web: badgersett.com


FIRST MINNESOTA MACHINE HARVEST OF NEW CROP - Sep 22nd

Hybrid Bush Hazels Can Out-Produce Soybeans


keywords: Sustainable Agriculture, Hazelnuts, Soybean Replacement, Machinable Crop,


The Public and Press are invited to attend and observe the First Machine Harvest in Minnesota of a highly promising new crop; hybrid bush hazelnuts. The machine will be working where visitors can watch up close and personal this Thursday, September 22nd, at Badgersett Farm in SE Minnesota. No reservations or fees are required; hours are 10 AM to 3 PM. The company’s blog will carry updates, and has more photos and video available; http://badgersettresearch.blogspot.com/

Easiest instructions for how to find the farm are at Google Maps, or at the company’s website, badgersett.com.

“We’ve been working toward this day for 2 decades. The dozens of growers who already have hazels planted have been counting on our prediction that we would be able to machine harvest these neohybrid hazelnut bushes. Now we’ve made the prediction come true: the machine is here - and it works.” says Badgersett CEO and Chief Scientist Philip Rutter; “The reason it took two decades was not the lack of a machine; we needed big enough fields of big enough bushes to warrant the machine. We actually had the field ready last year, but weren’t able to arrange a machine in time- the nuts mostly went to feed wildlife. This year, a grower came through, took the leap, and purchased a machine. He’s already glad he did, and we’re ecstatic.”

Hybrid hazelnuts were developed and introduced to the Midwest by Badgersett Research Corporation (BRC). As early as 1994, major plantings of Badgersett hazels were installed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and at Arbor Day Farm, Nebraska. Seen by many as an “oilseed” crop, the USDA recently awarded a $1.3 Million grant to 3 universities to pursue development across the nation. “It’s actually more than an oilseed. Sure; the oil is hugely important; the hazel kernel is about 60% oil, compared to 20% for soybeans. In addition, the hazel oil quality is fabulous; it’s literally the exact chemical twin of olive oil. But these plants produce far more; every year, for example, they produce nutshell, which can be used as fuel in a dozen ways; and don’t forget they’re woody plants- we harvest the wood as another crop.” Rutter says. “That’s more money in the farmer’s pocket. Ask any farmer if he could use a little more.” he grins. “Even the nut husk is going to be a money crop someday- wait and see!”

The machine being demonstrated is a used blueberry harvester, previously working to pick Michigan highbush blueberries. “Our goal from the outset was to develop a sustainable crop that real farmers; corn and bean row-crop farmers, could actually adopt. The neohybrid hazels are exactly that- you plant them just once in your lifetime; harvest now with a machine that drives like a combine; dry it in the grain dryer you already own; store it in the grain bin you already own, and in time you’ll sell it at the elevator, just like corn and beans. The nut is similar enough to soybeans that we could convert a soybean crushing plant quite easily to hazelnut processing- and not put anyone out of work.” says Dr. Brandon Rutter, an engineer and BRC COO. “It likely jobs will be added- as an industrial feedstock, the hazels are actually more versatile than soybeans. We know the soy people won’t believe that- but we can prove it.” he smiles. The company uses the term “neohybrid” to distinguish their plants from hybrid corn; “What’s going on in the chromosomes of these plants is utterly, totally, diametrically different from what happens in hybrid corn. Both kinds of hybrid genetics have huge advantages; but they are completely unlike, and yes, it’s going to be important for farmers to understand that, at least a little.” says founder Philip Rutter.

Visitors and press who come to see the harvester at work at Badgersett Farm should be aware that they won’t be seeing a full scale harvest. Philip says, “Most of our best bushes on this farm have already been picked, by hand; so we can gather the data on the individual bush performance. Everyone will be able to see the reality, though- this machine picks hazelnuts just fine, and we already have specific modifications in mind. There are still lots of nuts. We’ll be able to harvest quite a few plants and rows we haven’t been able to get picked in other years; we just didn’t have the time. The truth- just before I left for Illinois, to use the machine there on that large experimental field, I was depressed. We have so many hazel plants here; thousands of them; we simply haven’t had the time to collect the data we need and get them picked. I was thinking we should stop adding to our plantings, so we could evaluate the huge number of genetic variants we already have. But- coming back from using the machine? It hit me. We need a lot more plants, a lot more fields. We just jumped the scale of the crop way, way, up.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Photos sent on request.


CONTACTS:

Badgersett Research Corporation; Philip Rutter, President/CEO; (888) 557-4211
be prepared to leave a message detailing how and when to call you back.
web: badgersett.com for many details, and a map of how to get to Farm #1

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS are available for press use; contact us via email.


A research tray of neohybrid hazelnuts; each nut from a genetically different bush.


Dr. Brandon Rutter driving the harvester at the Illinois hazel field, 9/17/11

The harvester swallows a hazel bush; hazels are more flexible than blueberries, and the bushes are not harmed when compressed by the picker.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Machine harvest video


We're trying to catch our breath today, not that it's working. I managed to get a crude video of the machine working, and put it up on YouTube; catch it there if Blogger is not working satisfactorily.



This was a good bush; you see it go into the machine, though it's much wider than the machine (the hazel bushes are extremely flexible) - then there's a wait for travel, then the nuts start to come down the chute. Also bugs; you can see a few Japanese beetles- consequently, we did NOT bring the harvested nuts back to Minnesota; we'll have to process them in Illinois. We could use some help there...

At the end you see the conveyer; this bush did not clog the machine, but the conveyer was full. I never managed to get a movie of one of the really huge-crop bushes- they actually overflowed the conveyer and everything else; we had to hit the panic button and stop the machine completely, in order to catch up.

This only shows one side of the machine; there are two; which means there were just as many nuts coming out the other side also.

More soon.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Machine WORKS-


Better in fact than I'd hoped. Though it will need some modifications on the nut/cluster handling/cleaning eventually- right now, it will let you pick a big field. Perfect? No. Just- way better than the slow hand picking process. We had two farmers, a PhD engineer, and a professional machinist studying the machine end of it, and two farmers and two biologists studying the plants- and animal end of it.
stick insect, picked out of harvest bag, after going through the machine

Yesterday was shakedown; we found several ways to do it wrong, but also how to do it right. Today is our first attempt at full day work. We're not sure we can get all the bushes picked in the time available- it's a big field; but we're going to try. Some of the bushes are not ripe yet - of course- and we may bring the machine back to this field in a couple weeks, to re-pick. We'll see.

bushes coming out

bushes going in

cluster bearing twigs; picked clean

picking an easy row; Brandon driving

The press event for Illinois will be Saturday, Sept. 17; from 10 AM to 2 PM (although we will try to accomodate other needs.) Stockholders are strongly encouraged to come! It's an experience you'll tell your grandchildren about.

The Minnesota press event will be Thursday, Sept. 22; rain date Friday Sept. 23. Picking will be going on in Minnesota starting on Tuesday (we think: transport permitting), and the public is welcome to come and observe- and maybe help wrangle the bags of nuts...


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Machine Harvest- This Week!

To our surprise and delight, we find that Badgersett Research Corp is going to be harvesting neohybrid hazelnuts by machine, the very first time this has been done anywhere - this week. Thursday, Sept. 15th, to be exact, if present plans stay on track. That will be the first day; we plan many more to follow. First harvest will take place on the Illinois hazel field we picked by hand last year; after several days there, the machine will come to Badgersett Farm #1, in Minnesota; picking in MN will be Sept. 20, 21, 22; press event to be set. (Yes, we did pick a few some years ago, from the Badgersett hazel field at Arbor Day Farm, but that was just a demo/trial, not a real harvest. This is- real harvest.)

The machine is an older model self-propelled BEI blueberry picking machine, purchased in Michigan, by hazel growers and close friends who wish to remain entirely anonymous. And while Badgersett does not own this machine, we nonetheless have exclusive use of it for 2011, and will have continuing use of it for several years. The owners wants to pick their own hazels with it next year; and BRC is providing engineering consulting and extensive field testing, to jointly begin the process of fully adapting this type of harvesting machine to the task of genuine hazelnut crop picking.

As part of the agreement, in the coming years Badgersett will be able to offer custom machine harvest to other growers. If you've been finding your increasing hazel crops are becoming just too much for hand picking- you might want to contact us and start making arrangements for us to bring the machine to your farm - very soon.

This is the back view, showing the mechanism. The "tunnel" is 6 feet high, which we think will be adequate for most of the hazels at the Illinois farm, and the younger hazels we'll be using it on in Minnesota.

The side/front view. The machine has hydraulic adjustments for the wheels to allow compensation for field slopes.

Everyone needs to realize; as we do; that having this machine does not mean "machine harvest" for bush hazels is here, fully developed and ready for prime time. It means we can now truly begin the process of adapting the machine to the plants; and adapting the plants to the machine.

For at least 20 years now, we've been noting in our hazelnut data whenever a particular hazel plant was "machine pickable"; meaning the nut clusters were not yet dropped, but would come off with a little moderate shaking - and - the bush was of a size and flexibility that would be likely to work.

Starting in 2012, we will be taking the next, and highly important, step in adapting plants to machines: we will be planting ourselves, and offering for sale; hazelnut tubelings from nuts that - were picked - by machine. It's an authentic evolutionary step; if you'd like your field to have a better chance of being machine harvestable; planting it with seedlings from nuts that were successfully picked by a machine is a huge step in the right direction.

Stay tuned here for more information. The harvest event at the Illinois farm is a closed event; open only by invitation to Badgersett stock holders, past volunteers, and the press; but the harvest events at Farm #1 in Minnesota will be open to the public. You're welcome to come - and maybe even lend a hand.