History of Mechanical Harvesters

Over the years, technological progress has helped different industries by providing machinery to automate different processes in the production chain. The agricultural industry was one of the first to benefit.

The machine that performs the harvesting of agricultural products is called a mechanical harvester. In its beginnings, the harvesting tractor was powered by draft animals –fundamentally horses–, to later become self-propelled by means of an internal combustion engine. It was in 1831 when Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809-1884) built the first industrial harvester and made it commercial. Thus was born the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, whose machines revolutionized agricultural practices in the United States beginning in the 1850s and later throughout the world.

Although Cyrus created the harvester, it was not until 1975 that New Holland’s first self-propelled hand-held grape harvester was invented. Specifically, today I come to tell you the story of these grape harvesters, which are large machines that go through the vineyards and are responsible for harvesting the bunches and classifying the grapes.

A History of Harvesting Excellence

In 1975, Braud developed his first self-propelled grape harvester and viticulture changed forever. Today, these state-of-the-art New Holland machines are designed, developed, and built by engineers who live, breathe and dream of wine and olives at the New Holland Braud Center of Excellence in Coëx, France. This pioneering plant is at the forefront of sustainable production, with innovative schemes aimed at reducing the environmental impact and carbon footprint of manufacturing grape, olive, and almond harvesters.

Take a Look at the Braud’s History

1908

In Saint-Mars-La-Jaille, in a 72m² workshop, Alexandre BRAUD II built his first carousel thresher (horse-drawn thresher).

Late 1960s

Alexandre BRAUD III begins to be interested in harvesting grapes while developing threshers.

1970

Braud imports a harvesting machine from the USA and is inspired by it for the French market.

1973

The company is in financial difficulties but invents a system of shaking and harvesting grapes, judged.

The 1970S: A Turning Point in Braud’s History

1974

Braud offers a self-propelled machine approved by the management.

  • Transverse shaking system.
  • 2 front drive wheels.
  • 2 steering wheels at the rear.

The results are pretty good but there is a need for 4-wheel drive.

The Beginning of the Braud Harvesting Machines Adventure

1975

Braud sells the 1020 and sells 50 units:

  • Driver’s position with full visibility.
  • Adjustable seat.
  • Hydraulic controls.
  • 105 hp.

1977

The Braud 1020 is replaced by the Braud 1014:

  • New sealing system.
  • Transport of grapes with buckets (appearance of Noria).
  • Hopper.

1979

5 Braud 1014 go on sale and achieve exceptional results.

The Noria receives a gold medal at SITEVI*.

The 1980s: Braud Booming

1980

100 machines are produced and Braud becomes the world leader.

1982

655 machines are produced (all models combined).

1984

The Braud 2714 is on the market, a versatile machine that allows you to pre-cut, process, and harvest. Models of different sizes are available (2514, 2414, and 2614).

The FIAT Group becomes a 75% shareholder in Braud.

Braud’s Beginnings in Coëx

1988

FIAT decides that production will take place at the HESSTON plant in Coëx, Vendée.

The Braud 2420 and 260 are equipped with the SDC shaking system.

November 1988

Hesston becomes Hesston-Braud.

1989

Braud sells 2420 and 2720.

SDC Shaking system wins gold medal at SITEVI*.

July 1989

The Saint Mars La jaille factory closes permanently. It is the end of the Braud industry with almost a century of presence.

1994

Braud Saphir SB is on the market and heralds a new era in harvesting machines.

1995

The harvesting machines’ cabin wins a gold medal at SITEVI*.

The 2000S: A Turning Point for Braud

2000

Braud diversifies and expands its range of harvesting machines.

The Narrow Vineyard

2000

The narrow vine range is marketed with the Braud VN240 and VN260: harvesting machines, and versatile.

2008

The Braud 2080 is on the market. It has a destemmer that gets a silver medal at SITEVI*.

2017

The Braud 9080N is marketed as a versatile machine that wins a bronze medal at SITEVI*.

Obtaining the Label Origine France Garantie, this ensures that the product is manufactured in France.

The sale of the Braud grape harvester number 15,000 was reached.

A Braud museum

A Braud museum was created in Saint-Mars-La-Jaille, the first Braud building site, where a team of enthusiasts, former employees and supporters preserve the memory of Braud’s industrial past. The aim is to show the technological evolution of harvesting machines and their means of production. There are about fifty machines and many documents.

Beyond New Holland machines

Although New Holland leads the combine harvester market worldwide, we must not leave out big players such as Pellenc, Ero, Grégoire and Oxbo.

History of Pellenc

In 1973, Roger Pellenc observes and imagines among the Vaucluse vineyards. He already had the idea of ​​innovating to make men’s work more efficient and less painful. Pruning is a fundamental phase in the vineyard cycle: to facilitate this task, he designed a topper. The PELLENC Company sees the light and success is immediate. The 1980s are marked by the first ideas about the mechanization of harvesting in fruit orchards. In 1993, PELLENC embarks on the mechanization of harvesting and optimizes the profitability of its machines with the Multifunction that allows them to be used for longer with different tools.

History of ERO GmbH

With the mission of making work in the vineyard easier for winegrowers and helping them produce high-quality wines, in the mid-1960s, farmer Heinz Erbach began producing stable equipment. This is how ERO was born, which already in 1970 had entered the mechanization of viticulture thanks to the creation of a blade rotator. Over the years, many other viticultural machines followed: the sprout binder, the post shredder, the leaf removers, and finally the first German-made self-propelled grape harvester.

History of Grégoire

The SDF group was born in 1927 with the acquisition of the first diesel tractor and SAME (Società Accomandita Motori Endotermici) was created in 1942. Over the years, different divisions of companies such as Lamborghini Trattori (Italy) and Hürlimann (Switzerland) were acquired. until in 1995, with the inclusion of the German DEUTZ-FAHR, the SDF group was established, which in 2011 rose with the Grégoire company in France and China, where the latest generation of self-propelled grape harvesters was developed.

History of Oxbo

Its story has humble beginnings, built over decades by several key companies, including Ploeger, Byron, Pixall, Korvan, FMC, Bourgoin, PMC and BCMH, who shared a collective commitment to serving specialty crop customers. Among several projects created by each of these companies, in 1997 Korvan developed the grape harvester. Then in 2003, Oxbo licensed vineyard mechanization technology and in 2004 acquired Korvan products. Later, in 2007, it launched the mechanical harvester and in 2008 all the products of the merger of the companies began to be marketed under the Oxbo brand.

How Do Harvesters Work?

The tendency to technify the harvest is growing and one of the reasons is the lack of labor: every year there are fewer swallow workers seeking temporary employment in the grape harvest. The machines replace a crew of between 40 and 50 people and can harvest an average of 20,000 kilos of grapes in three hours.

The machine is self-propelled and has the particularity that at the same time as harvesting, it carries out the process of cleaning the bunch right there; that is, it delivers the grapes without residue from the vine.

The harvester is mounted on the vine espalier. There a series of sticks take the trellis and make a move in the row that makes the grapes and clusters come off and fall into the baskets of the machine. In this sector, she makes upward movements that take the grapes to a selection table. Finally, the grapes reach the hoppers where they are accumulated and then unloaded into trucks.

This animation explains how the harvesters machines works: Braud 3D animation – Grape Harvesting Excellence.

Want to read more? Try these books!

Mechanical Harvesters, History of Mechanical HarvestersMechanical Harvesters, History of Mechanical Harvesters

Sources and References

*    SITEVI is the world’s largest exhibition of equipment and know-how for vine-wine, olive and fruit & vegetable production

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