Working On The World’s First Broccoli Harvester…

It was a pleasure to have worked on the world’s first broccoli harvester – we were the first ever team to use it. There are two broccoli harvesters in existence, the brainchild of Joe Cook, our employer.

The broccoli harvester was made by Tasmanian company Dobmac. They operate in Tasmania and New Zealand.

Dobmac Website main page.

So one day whilst working at Lake House farm, my manager Rebecca Gaby asked myself and Jenny if we wanted to go and work on the broccoli harvester at the end of our shift. It was already dark. I knew very little about it, didn’t even know it was  the world’s first but what I did know was it meant longer days of work and a real chance to keep earning and earning.

Thats a copy of one of my pay cheques from working on the broccoli harvester. As you can see I earned $1,234.20 in just one week – that is about £700. When I did PR in London for Apple, I was earning about £900 a MONTH! To think that I was now earning just under that a week, and in a place where everything is cheaper than in London. Plus, I was staying in my tent for $5 a night, therefore low accomodation costs. Given I didn’t really get days off and the days were longer, but that’s a big consolation when you consider how much I was earning!

First shift at night on the back of the broccoli harvester – at Woodside Farm.

Me and Pierre, taken by Jenny (the three of us were the “guinea pigs” for this new prototype, the world’s first broccoli harvester).

The first full box of broccoli from a broccoli harvester…ever!

So what actually happened working on the world’s first broccoli harvester? Well basically I had already spent 2 months manually cutting broccoli, which involves walking down every single row of each broccoli field and cutting every single piece of broccoli that is ready.

On the broccoli harvester basically it requires to be connected to the back of a tractor and the harvester itself spans across 6 rows of broccoli, known as 2 beds. However only one of these beds, and therefore 3 rows is included in the actual span of the harvester blades and pick up carousels. This is ideal. Any more and the staff couldn’t cope, nor would there have been room for any more staff.

The harvester cuts (or is meant to cut) every piece of broccoli on the bed that it hovers over.

Generally there were five of us on the back of the harvester. We would stand up on the railings with the harvester carousel/belt on one side of us and the end part of the belt/carousel and blue boxes on the other side.

The idea was simple – EVERY bit of broccoli that comes up the belt must be checked. If it is bad then discard it immediately, or leave it on the belt to fall off. For these reasons the broccoli may be bad:
– root disease
– discoloured
– cut in half (destroyed by harvester/previously cut)
– blistered
– muddy
– eaten by insects/rats etc. (very rare as good fertiliser always used)
– stalk too short
– too small (very rare on a final cut)

If it’s good, straighten up the stalk by slicing it (and leave a decent sized stalk), remove the leaves and put it in the box. It’s that simple, that repetitive and sometimes I would do that for 14 hours a day!

There was room for 5 on board but this often meant that one person would have to be on the back, basically hanging on the back of the harvester! At first this was quite novel, but quickly became the most hated part of the job as your time would be spent separating the good from the bad, being hit by flying leaves and in the words of my colleague Zac “it’s too windy” – indeed though it wasnt wind – it was the gust from the vents that would only lift and make the light stuff fly away – very clever which meant that in theory only the heavy bits would continue onto the belt – i.e. the broccoli.

As it was a “prototype”, and the first of it’s kind there were always a few minor hiccups and problems/issues to sort out at the start. This actually became quite funny as at one point we had a different problem every day…

The main problem was the cogs on the lifting carousel which had these links on them. The links often snapped on buy periods/if the harvester hadn;t been cleaned properly at the end of each run. (We always had to clean at the end of the runs)

A box of the spare links.

The first field where I worked on the broccoli harvester was this one at Woodside Farm in the wilderness of Poatina.

You can see what a great job the harvester does – what has been cut and what hasn’t?

The next field at Lake House farm.

View from the back of the harvester at Lake House.

Pierre, Sev, me and Ben on the back of the harvester at Lake House. Jenny took that photo (she didn’t like to be in them). For the most part the team was me, Jenny (Taiwan), Pierre, Sev and Ben. Ben and Sev were a lovely French couple who were travelling together in a campervan. Pierre was a French guy who became a good mate, he is from Pont St. Esprit in Southern France. Jenny was my travel and work companion for about 5 weeks or so – I gave her a lift to Launceston Airport in early May and we parted ways.

The driver was Jeff. A really decent guy, who had suffered a horrible accident and lost his thumb and fingers, yet had an extraordinary operation to get his big toe sewn onto his hand and he could drive and use his hands excellently – you wouldn’t even have known about his operation. Jeff and Jenny there.

Jeff, Jenny and Pierre.

Jenny and me on her last day.

Another truck load filled with broccoli – this time at Formosa farm.

On the back of the world’s first broccoli harvester with my Northern Ireland flag.

And again on the front part of the harvester.

Another one of my flag by the side of the harvester – again at Formosa farm near Cressy and Poatina.

The Dobmac Machine controls.

The blade and the catchers.

The workplace – on board the harvester – where we stood all day long sorting out and cutting the broccoli.

In the last week working on the broccoli harvester the team changed a bit. First of all Sev and Ben left to do potato harvesting, then Clement and Zac came in (from Taiwan and France). Then Jenny left leaving just four of us instead of five for the last few days – this turned out to be enough as by that stage most of the broccoli from Formosa Farm had been cut out.

Game over – Just finished work on the last day at Formosa farm – all of us relaxing on the harvester.

On board the broccoli harvester – typical pose.

Throwing the broccoli into the box.

On the back of the harvester braving the gusts.

Facing the other way on the back of the harvester – them gusts got strong in a Tasmanian windstorm.

In charge of the John Deere tractor and the broccoli harvester.

And again.

New driver.

Zac, Pierre and Clement – the three guys who were all on the harvester with me on the last day – me and Pierre worked EVERY shift together for about 5 or 6 weeks!

And the way we left Formosa farm – broccoli-less.

How many people can say they worked the first 35 shifts on board the world’s first broccoli harvester? Only myself and Pierre Renard, actually.

Thanks to – Rebecca Gaby, Joe Cook (of Joe Cook Ag) and Diane Doherty, Hayley Becker (of Work Direct)

Tractor Drivers I worked with – Jeff, Ben.

My fellow Broccoli Harvester workers – Jenny Chen (Taiwan), Pierre Renard (France), Ben Judien, Severaine, Clement Mansot (France), Zac Pan (Taiwan)

Farms I worked on the harvester at – Woodside Farm, Lake House Farm, Formosa Farm.

Shifts I done – around 35 (longest probably 13 hours)

Dobmac Website –

Joe Cook Ag Website –



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