Machines for harvesting saffron: Chimera or reality?

Before seeing any prototype of a saffron harvesting machine, in order to evaluate them it is necessary to know some details of the plant and also how the traditional work is carried out to understand the characteristics that must be met for correct operation.

The reason why mechanizing the harvesting of the saffron rose would be a tremendous advance for the sector is because the physical work involved is really hard, the position that must be adopted requires a very high effort from the body and the daily work can can last a few hours, the number of people needed to complete the entire daily collection is very high and in the end this represents a fairly high economic cost, this is mainly why saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. .

The fact that the work is so hard means that, in these times, there is a lack of labor and this is a determining factor why several prototypes of machines have been developed that can solve the problem.

Viable mechanization would mean that new producers would join the sector and be able to revitalize it since in recent years it could be said that it is in danger of disappearing.

Spanish saffron is recognized as the best in the world and for this same reason it cannot be machined lightly, quality must be maintained at the highest level or it would be taking steps backwards.

Collect saffron post machines

Another aspect to take into account is the indosynchrasy of the plant, its elements and its form of flowering, the flowering season occurs from less to more, reaching a central point called "the flowering", this is the peak moment that It lasts about five days, it is when all the cultivated bulbs give flowers at the same time, once the flowering period has passed, the flower production is detrimental until it stops coming out.

The normal thing is that the first four or five days the flowers appear without the leaf yet, the leaf of the plant is called "espartillo" and is very hard, even breaking it by hand is quite difficult, this aspect is important to assess the viability of a machine because the leaf must remain healthy since it is vital for the plant and will continue growing until April.

On the other hand, the flowers are more fragile than wire grass, at the point of morning, when the light of dawn shows, they have already been born, they are closed "in a cocoon" and they last a couple of hours, facilitating the collection since when they are open, they are taller, but it is more difficult to collect them if the wire grass is present.

If it rains or the flowers are left unpicked for a day, we will find them expired and on the ground. This aspect is important for mechanization and also for the quality of the saffron since the less the saffron brin is subjected to the sun and insects. , the better quality it will be.

post machine flowers

What kind of "prototypes" for collecting saffron are there today?

1- MECHANICAL ARM TRACTOR SUPPORT

Machine1

PROS

The collector does not require any effort except driving the tractor vehicle.

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CONS

Takes a lot of space

The planting frame must be immense to be able to place the harvester in position for each furrow and not damage the cultivated area by stepping on it with the tractor.

Cut flower and wire grass so the plant will be greatly affected and will end up dying.

The cost is very high for the performance it can offer.

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Note: 1 out of 10

As a producer I think that it is a complement that will cause more problems than solutions, it is not worth wasting time trying it.

2- SELF-PROPELLED MACHINE WITH COUPLING FOR COLLECTORS

Machine2

PROS

This machine allows up to 4 collectors to go at the same time.

The prone position of the collectors is quite viable to carry out the work

With an adequate planting framework, the saffron tree will not be harmed

The simplicity of the machine leads one to think that its cost is not very high.

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CONS

Takes a lot of space

Since the collector is not the one who controls the progress, an excellent harvest cannot be done.

The forward speed must be very slow to be able to collect the majority of the flowers

It is not ecological, it pollutes

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Note: 7 out of 10

As a producer, I think that the design is very successful and that from this prototype we could reach something very effective. It shows that they have thought about solving difficulties without harming the plantation or the quality of the flower.

3- SELF-PROPELLED MACHINE TO STARTER ASPARAGUS

Saffron harvesting machine scam

PROS

It is relatively light and does not harm the saffron tree with an adequate planting framework.

Has good turn and handling

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CONS

The collector's position is unviable, the traditional collector's back hurts, in this position the back, stomach and legs hurt.

It does not replace a traditional picker in speed since you have to continually stop when the furrow is full of flowers.

You need your own transportation for the machine.

It is not ecological, it pollutes

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Note: 2 out of 10

As a producer I think it is a very suitable machine for asparagus, but for saffron it is not viable, the cost price is not amortized since there is no saving in labor.

4- SELF-PROPELLED BLADE CUTTING MACHINE

Machine3

PROS

The speed of harvesting is surprising, three furrows at a time and with rapid advance

Only one picker can do all the picking work

Labor is fully amortized

The machine itself deposits the flower in a rear drawer and treats it delicately.

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CONS

The cutting is done with a blade and cuts the flower, but also the wire.

The crop is harmed by the loss of plants and is not profitable in the long run.

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Note: 6 out of 10

As a producer I think it is a very nice machine to look at and it does the harvesting very well, but the loss of the bulb in the long run does not make it profitable at all.

5- MANUAL OR ELECTRIC DISC MACHINE

Machine4

PROS

Example of sustainability and ecology.

Separate the flower from the wire

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CONS

In manual it works very slow

It does not replace the work of a traditional collector in terms of speed and efficiency.

Details are missing so that the flower collection is optimal

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Note: 5 out of 10

As a producer I believe that it is a machine in which they have thought a lot to solve the harvesting without damaging the crop, with more development it has potential.

6- FRICTION CUTTING MACHINE AND VACUUM CLEANER

Machine5

PROS

Light and fast in picking, it can save a lot of labor.

It cuts by friction of two discs and 80% of the flowers are collected well, some are broken by the pressure

Vacuuming throws flowers into the back drawer without problem

Easy to transport and clean energy.

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CONS

Can be optimized

The ground must be free of stones for the device to move properly.

You must have several batteries to be able to work for several hours.

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Note: 8 out of 10

As a producer I think it is a very successful machine, it could mean savings in labor of around 50%.

The few drawbacks it has could be solved with some improvements.

Machine6

7- SHEAR CLEANING DRONES

Machine7

PROS

High technology available to the farmer

Programmable and complete direct saffron harvesting cycle

Easy to transport

100% ecological

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CONS

Technology in development

Unknown cost forecast

It will depend on an external company

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Note: Not evaluable at the moment

As a producer, I believe that today it is still a long way off to see drones directly collecting saffron from the flower, but collecting the flowers could be viable.

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