Sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides, is a hardy shrub with a treelike form and quick growth habit. According to the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, it fruits by its fifth year and continue producing for up to 30 years. Sea buckthorn berries have high vitamin content and contain rare, fatty acids. It tolerates a wide variety of soil types, but sets more fruit in sandy loam with plenty of organic matter.
Hand Harvest with Buckets
It is hard to handpick sea buckthorn because the shrub is thorny and has a dense fruit set of yellow-orange berries that do not like to separate from the stem. The Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association estimates that it takes 600 person hours to handpick one acre. Pickers are often unavailable and are not able to harvest enough fruit to make their pay economically justifiable.
Vibratory Fruit Harvester
It is only possible to use clamp-on vibrating harvesters on sea buckthorn when the fruit on the plants is frozen. The harvester shakes the trunk and branches of the shrub, which makes the berries drop into a catcher placed at the base of the shrub. Fruit is undamaged unless it is overripe. Using the vibrator produces debris that drops with the fruit, such that the fruit require cleaning after harvesting.
German Cutting Fruit Harvester
A German firm has developed a mechanical harvester for sea buckthorn fruit that harvests by cutting. Because sea buckthorn set fruit only on second-year growth, cutting entire branches for harvest means shrubs produce only every other year. Unless other crops are grown, this method is not economically feasible.
In 2007 and 2008, trials started in Finland on a combine harvester for sea buckthorn. It uses plastic fingers on rotating drums to remove fruit with minimum damage to fruiting branches.