Cat®-powered grape harvesters developed in the Murray-Darling region
The Sunraysia food bowl is a dynamic agricultural basin part of the famous Murray-Darling wine region, which flourished with the arrival of irrigation in the late 1800s. And one company passionately supporting the viability and sustainability of the industry is LEDA Custom Farm Equipment. Established in 2000 by Damien “Henry” Higgins in Buronga, a small Murray River town lying on the opposite riverbank to Mildura, LEDA boasts a range of 15 different horticultural machinery products, including Australia’s only locally built self-propelled grape harvester.
On the back of its solid reputation in developing olive harvesters, LEDA’s expansion into mechanical grape harvesters began in 2008 when it manufactured two prototype tractor tow machines. Their success saw a full manufacture of further tractor tow machines in 2009 with its first self-propelled harvester, the H-Series P16 coming in 2013, after two years of extensive research and development.
The P16 incorporates the latest technologies with greater flexibility for custom programming. Mechanically, electrically and hydraulically sound, it’s powered by a Cat® C4.4 engine supplied with remote-mounted air, fuel and oil filters for ease of servicing the compact design. Being completely designed and built in Australia means it can withstand the tough conditions and varied terrain of the local vineyards and the Cat C4.4 engine gives the machine the power it needs without compromising on efficiency.
The P16 is the most efficient way to harvest the fruit in the process known as vintage, one of the most crucial steps in winemaking. Mechanical harvesting of grapes was first introduced commercially in the 1960s and is a necessity in the harsh conditions faced in the Murray Darling summer harvest season.
“One of the benefits of mechanical harvesting is the relatively low cost,” says Henry.
“A harvester is able to run 24 hours a day and in hot climates like the Murray-Darling, where picking quickly or in the cool of night is a priority, mechanical harvesting is imperative.
“Engineered for Australia, the quality of our machinery is the sum of its components and for us, there was no better engine choice than Cat.”
“We have been dealing with EPSA since around 2011 and choose them because they are very easy to deal with and the support and the knowledge they give us is outstanding.”
This state-of-the-art machine is already in operation in the Murray-Darling and for wine customers in South Australia. A further three machines are scheduled for delivery this year.