Passage to India for tomato picker

Claire TyrrellCountryman

A Donnybrook-built tomato harvester has found its way to across the Indian Ocean after India's Global Green Company discovered the machine online.

Albert Vinci, of Donnybrook's A & R Engineering, helped design the CustomAg Harvester which is used in planting, pruning, training and harvesting vegetables.

"We started making them in 1997 and there are about 15 to 20 in the South West," he said.

"The bigger tomato growers use these machines and there are generally two to three per grower.

"Some Indian growers saw it on the internet and picked up that it might be a good idea, rather than walking around as they do with a basket."

In March this year, Mr Vinci recorded video footage of one of the machines working in the South West.

This prompted Global Green to place an online order for the CustomAg Harvester and a retro-fitted machine was on a ship by June.

It was A & R's first international export and Mr Vinci said he would be keen to send more machines overseas if demand was there.

He said with the decline in tomato prices in recent years, demand was lacking in WA for the machine.

Mr Vinci said the Indian company was looking to follow Australia's path of reducing manual labour.

"In India, mechanising their operations is only just beginning, whereas we have been doing it for years," he said.

"Our labour is way too expensive so we have had to go this way to up the speed of things.

"Their labour is not too expensive, though I think they can see they are going to speed things up a hell of a lot with this machine and that's why they've gone for it."

Mr Vinci and his brother, Rob, helped design the machine, to meet their own needs.

He said it was not highly technical, apart from the hydraulics which were supplied by Donnybrook's Crendon Machinery.

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