German technology proves its mettle in harvesting bushy plants

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Specialized harvesting technology created by a German developer has been successfully deployed at cannabis fields in Switzerland this month, turning out 360 kg (~800 lbs.) of flowers in just four hours from bushy plants. The machine, from Henry’s Hemp Harvester (HHH) of Hanover, Germany, has already been proven as a harvester for conventional hemp plants that grow tall stalks.

“With industrial hemp we were like 20 times faster than hand harvesting,” developer Heinrich Wieker said of the technology’s performance in hemp fields earlier this autumn. “With the bushy plants, it’s 12 times faster” than picking the plants by hand, said Wieker, who estimates the HHH reduces the time required for harvesting one plant from 2:30 minutes to about 20 seconds.

Drastically reducing labor

Harvesting bushy cannabis plants — both CBD hemp plants and marijuana — with the machine requires only four workers who collect and then hand feed the plant stalks into the harvester’s stripper mechanism as a tractor moves the unit from one spot to the next in the field. The harvesting process had previously required 15 workers on the farm at Belp, near Switzerland’s capital city of Bern, which contracted the HHH for this year’s harvest.

Semi-stationary operation of the HHH at marijuana fields in Switzerland.

Wieker said the machine has now proven its full range of intended applications – for harvesting hemp flowers and cutting the stalks for field retting, as well as turning out pristine flowers. While harvesting bushy plants is carried out via the semi-stationary process, the unit harvests conventional hemp while running continuously in the field.

The HHH is a front-mounted attachment that was four years in research, development and production. The harvester can be driven by a small tractor, has an aluminum frame and rollers for weight reduction, and stainless steel components such as chains and other flower-contacting parts for food- and pharmacy-grade yields. The stripper can also be operated indoors with a hydraulic pump powered by electricity.

Modular, expandable

The standard double-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) of hemp per day. But the harvesting ensemble is modular, expandable up to six units that proportionally increase the hemp harvesting area, or the capacity for harvesting marijuana.

Prices range from €41,000 (~$48,000) for a single unit with a cutting width of 70 cm (~28 inches) up to €190,000 (~$223,000) for a six-unit ensemble that takes a cut of 420 cm (~14 ft). Total weight of each harvesting unit is about 250 kilograms (~550 lbs.). [Specifications]

Wieker sees Switzerland, where cannabis growing is legal up to 1.0% THC, as a promising market for the HHH. Hemp companies all over the world have expressed interest in the harvester, with first orders already having been placed by customers from Luxembourg and Germany, Wieker said.

HHH Hemp Harvester 700
The HHH is built for front mounting on small and medium-size tractors.

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