There are at least three ways to harvest aronia berries. These are manual harvesting, machine harvesting and self-harvesting. Each of these is discussed in this article and the costs associated with each method.
Harvest by hand
Harvesting by hand allows for a more accurate selection and tends to pick more of the berries. Mechanical harvesters provide a more efficient, often cost-effective process. Mechanical harvesting is well suited for planting large aronia berries that lie on a flat patch of soil. The type of harvest by manual picking, mechanical harvesters or a combination of both is influenced by several factors.
For manual harvesting, from an employer’s perspective, a piece rate system offers two advantages over an hourly rate system. First, a piece rate predetermines the unit cost for the work for which an employee is hired. Second, a piece-work system does not require close and constant monitoring of an employee’s productivity. This means that the employees must be self-motivated. While a fixed hourly or wage payment system guarantees a steady income, it also removes the opportunity for an employee to earn more than the stated hourly wage. In addition, an hourly wage system removes the productivity incentive, and employers can be disadvantaged if the performance of employees is lower than that of more efficient pickers. Under an hourly wage system, close monitoring of the worker’s effort is required.
The following example assumes 700 bushes planted per acre with an average yield of 20 pounds of berries per bush. There is a pick rate of £16.1 per hour and an hourly wage of $8.00. You can use the numbers that apply to your operation. The worksheet also allows you to calculate your hand-harvest costs if you pay pickers by the pound. With these assumptions, harvesting an acre of berries by hand requires 870 hours of labor at a wage of $8.00/hour. The operating cost of manual harvesting is (870 hours × $8.00/hour) $6957/acre.
a. Aronia berry bushes – 700 bushes
b. Yield per Bush – 20 lbs
c. Picking Rate – 16.1 lbs/hr
d. Labor rate per pound – $0.50/lb
Total production a × b = 14,000 lbs
Hours (a × b) / c = 870 hours
Total cost (a × b) × d = $6957 dollars
Cost per bush (w × d) = $9.94 dollars
Hourly wage (c × d) = $8.00 dollars
Number of pickers/week ((a × b) / c) / 40= 22 pickers
So for hand picking, a harvest of 14000 pounds would be at $1.00 per pound. $14,000 gross with a harvest cost of $6,957, net profit would be $7043 per acre, excluding other production costs. 10 acres could yield $70,430.
Harvesting by machine
There are two categories of machine costs: cost of ownership (or fixed costs) and operating costs (or variable costs). Cost of ownership includes the cost of the equipment, which is a fixed cost regardless of how much (or how little) you use the order picker. The other related costs include repairs, housing costs, depreciation, interest and insurance. The variable operating costs associated with using the machine and vary depending on how much you use the equipment. Operating costs include labor required to operate the equipment, fuel, lubrication, and the cost of other necessary equipment.
You may be able to buy a pull type harvester for $30,000.
The repair costs for belts, pulleys, motors, etc. are estimated at $200 per year. You must also calculate an amount for maintenance and repairs. A suggested amount is 8% of the purchase price, or $2400 over a 20-year period.
Housing costs are estimated at $500 per year. You may have storage space available on your farm.
Since you do not use the picker often and on a small amount of land, the life of the implement can be about 20 years after which it has no market value. With these assumptions, your depreciation expense can be calculated as ($30,000/20 years) = $1500/year.
When borrowing money to buy the harvester, you need to consider the cost of borrowing. The interest rate should be included in your cost calculation. Even if you use your own money to buy the equipment, calculate what you could earn by using that money elsewhere. Since the value of the machine decreases over time (through depreciation), the standard method of calculating the interest expense is using the average value over the life of the machine, in this case $15,000. Assuming a 6% interest rate and an average value, your interest cost is $15,000 × 0.06 = $900 per year.
You need to insure your new aronia berry harvester. An estimate of insurance costs is often about $10 per $1000 of valuation. For $30,000 berry picker, that would be $300 a year. Your current insurance may be sufficient to cover your new purchase.
Total Cost of Ownership $1500 + $200 + $500 + $900 + 300 = $3,400.00 per year
Cost equation break-even acres =
Total Cost of Ownership (per year) = $3,400
Hand Variable Cost/acre – Machine Variable Cost/acre $3,400.00 per acre – $6957/acre = $3557 additional cost for manual harvesting of one acre compared to machine harvesting. 3400/6957 = 0.49%
So for just over 0.5 hectares, mechanical harvesting is the most economical.
3400/6957 = 0.49%
So for machine harvesting, a 14000 lb harvest would be $1.00 per lb. $14,000 gross with a $3400 crop cost, net profit would be $10,600 per acre excluding other production costs. 10 acres could yield $106,000.
You choose edits
One way to keep costs in check is to have a “you pick” berry operation. Your picking isn’t as popular as your blueberry picking operations, as the aronia berries are bitter and must be made into juices, jams, and other products.
Marketing aronia berries as fundraisers for schools and church youth groups is working well for some operations. It is a good way to market aronia berries. It eliminates the cost of manual harvesting. Marketing aronia berries as fundraisers for schools and church youth groups also provides an opportunity to educate people about the health benefits of aronia berries. This method can increase your profits and make small farms profitable.
For aronia plantations of more than ½ hectare, mechanical harvesting is the most economical operation. As an interim measure, you use pick operations to be profitable. For commercial operations, machine harvesting is not only the most practical, it is also essential. In addition, large areas are needed to attract large customers for the production of juices. Large acreage is also needed to be profitable and competitive as Europe has many thousands of acres of arona and markets it in the United States at very competitive prices.