Known for the high level of vitamin C, the round, juicy, sweet brightly colored citrus fruit known as oranges provide health benefits and a tasty treat. Oranges grow on trees in large fields known as groves, mostly in warm climates such as Florida and California. To reach the fullest level of ripeness, oranges -- like all citrus fruits -- should remain on the tree for as long as possible.
As has been tradition for hundreds of years, oranges are typically picked from the orange tree by hand. Workers lean ladders against the tree, or stand it up near the tree, and climb to the top to pick the oranges from the tree branches. Once removed from the tree, oranges are placed into canvas pick sacks which typically worn over the torso of the body. Up to 96 percent of all Florida oranges are harvested by hand using this traditional method.
The canopy shake method of mechanical harvesting for oranges refers to a self-propelled machine that shakes the oranges free from the orange tree. The oranges fall from the tree and are collected into a catch cloth, which can be a tarp or other large piece of fabric. The catch cloth is then dumped into a truck called a "goat" which then dumps the oranges into an empty semi-truck trailer.
Another method of mechanical orange harvesting is called tractor shake. Unlike the canopy shake method, which uses a catch cloth to catch the falling oranges, the tractor shake method simply uses a tractor to shake the oranges free from the tree. Once free, the oranges simply fall to the ground where workers pick them up and place them in a canvas pick sack. This method is actually a combination of manual and mechanical picking.
All three methods of harvesting oranges have benefits and the best harvesting method is dependent on several factors. The size of the orange grove to harvest is one of the biggest factors to consider. The owner of a small orange grove typically will choose to hire workers to manually harvest the oranges, while a large orange grove is more likely to depend on one of the mechanical harvesting methods or at least combine the two to save time and money.