We have 12 pistachio harvest sets
Ten of the twelve sets are state-of-the-art machines made by Orchard Machinery Corporation (OMC).
Our shakers have 142 HP compared to competitors like COE and Weldcraft, which are limited to 74 HP. The frequency of the shake is calculated using a computer in the machine which makes it easier to separate the pistachio from the tree. Whips are branches that are too long and do not have enough structure/girth for the shaker to separate the nut from the tree. We believe our shakers increase the chances of getting pistachios off of a whip.
We provide recommendations on when to schedule harvest and ultimately, we are in the field when instructed by a client or when the time is right as determined by management.
Our added value comes down to the experience of our shaker drivers. They’re fast, which allows us to harvest the crop quickly. This is important because once the crop is ready, tannins are released that will stain the pistachio shell and processors will penalize the grower for stain. This could end up costing the grower thousands of dollars.
Our experienced shaker driver does not bark trees. When you bark a tree, you rip off the bark on the trunk which causes the tree to get sick and sometimes die.
We're able to have experienced drivers because we employ them throughout the year. Other harvest companies rely on temporary workers to operate their equipment, which can result in less production and more hours of training. In such cases, it is rare to have that same operator return the following year.
West Hills employees acquire multiple years of experience in pistachio harvest prior to operating our shaker.
Another key component to a high-quality shaker driver is their ability to shake a tree for the amount of time needed. This is determined by management and communicated across the team of drivers. A great driver is able to follow directions and shake for the desired amount of time (between one to three seconds) at every tree. If a driver is shaking for three seconds on one tree and one second on another tree, they are either knocking off buds (next year’s crop) or leaving crop on the tree that should have been harvested.
We have four almond shakers, three regular sweepers, a V sweeper, two harvesters and three shuttles.
The key to a great harvest company is providing the service at the desired time. If we are late to get in and shake the almond tree, the nut dries out and we are not able to separate it from the tree. If we are too early, the almonds are too green and they will not separate from the tree.
Water is not applied to the trees between four to ten days prior to harvest. Once we shake the almond trees, we have to wait roughly seven to ten days for the almond hulls to dry out prior to the start of sweeping. By the time we start sweeping, the almond trees are in desperate need of water. Our ability to get in and start sweeping at the right time and finishing the job quickly so the irrigators can turn the water on is crucial. We have the equipment and in-field expertise to accomplish this.