After four years in development, German entrepreneur Heinrich Wieker is now taking orders for a harvester designed specifically for outdoor hemp fields producing flowers for CBD, food and other niche products.
Designed with small and medium-sized farms in mind, Henry’s Hemp Harvester (HHHarvester) gently strips the plant’s flowers and severs the stems in one pass, employing a patented stripping mechanism. The flowers can be collected in a bag or container, while the hemp stalks are left in the field for retting. Depending on plant maturity at the time of harvesting, it’s also possible to shake out the seeds, completing a triple yield, Wieker said.
A dual-unit header configuration of the harvester, designed to be front mounted to a small tractor with hydraulic lift, is priced at €50,000 ($55,400). Additional units to expand the harvesting width, and specialty add-ons are extra, Wieker said.
An electrical engineer by profession, Wieker has 25 years experience designing and implementing processing solutions for the automotive, chemical, pharmaceutical and nutrition industries. He was initially inspired to build the HHHarvester after observing the laborious and expensive process of harvesting hemp fields by hand.
21st Century harvesting
“I watched all these people in the field, and while there was something romantic about it, it is obviously not an efficient way to harvest in the 21st century,” Wieker said.
The standard 2-unit HHHarvester is designed to be efficient for conventionally planted outdoor hemp fields as small as 5 hectares (12.3 acres). Wieker said tests with the machine proved it can harvest 4-5 hectares (9.8-12.3 acres) per day. But the harvesting ensemble is modular, expandable up to six units that proportionally increase the harvest area.
The HHHarvester is an alternative to massive hemp-specific combines that can cost as much as €600,000 ($665,000). Wieker, who self-financed the technology through its four years in development, is focusing first on sales in Europe.
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“Our strategy is to engage closely with our customers and make them feel they have a stake in the technology,” said Wieker, who plans a workshop in Hannover in March 2020 to present the technology in detail, and to work individually with committed customers designing configurations most suitable for their specific needs.
More technology coming
He’ll also begin to look for engineering and manufacturing partners in North America and other parts of the world over the next 12 months, Wieker said.
Specialist engineering firm Eilhauer, based in Langenhagen, Germany, which has long-term experience in the design and construction of customized technology solutions, is building the HHHarvester under contract.
Wieker also has developed an electrically-driven hemp bud stripper that can be used stationary in a barn or be transported on a trailer for operations in the field. That technology is not expected to hit the market until the second half of 2020.