SPARTA, Mich. (AP) -- A West Michigan man believes he's invented a faster and fruit-friendly machine to pick apples.
The Grand Rapids Press reports that Phil Brown of Conklin predicts the machine could transform apple picking into a 24-hour-a-day operation. His self-propelled picker replaces ladders with hydraulically operated platforms that move through an orchard as a vacuum collects apples and eases them into a container.
The 66-year-old owner of Phil Brown Welding Corp. says it's safer for the pickers and faster at picking apples. The five pickers who work on the machine can gather 20 percent more apples.
Brown demonstrated his machine last week at an orchard west of Sparta that is owned by Riveridge Fruit Marketing Inc. He expects to have it for sale next year for about $150,000.