01 Sep2015

My Chief of Stuff just asked me how large automated tomato “pickers” work to gather tomatoes in large plantations… and I honestly didn’t know. So I googled it. And I got to this amazing video. It’s fascinating how just say 5-6 people can pick several hectares worth of tomatoes in a few hours time. That would take local farm laborers weeks to pick and transport the same amount of tomatoes (though they wouldn’t kill the plants in the process). But if you ever wondered how canned tomatoes or tomato sauce are so much cheaper than making them yourself (unless you own your own tomato farm or have a green thumb like Bettyq), wonder no more. The video was shot in New Zealand, not a classic source of tomatoes on my radar screen, but it’s utterly amazing what productivity gains can be had from really expensive farm vehicles… :)



  1. Connie C says:

    Amazing how food technology and genetic engineering have modified fruits and vegetables to grow delayed ripening and firmer varieties to allow such mechanized harvesting and rough handling before they reach the grocery shelves. Now I know why we don’t see much of the heirloom tomatoes like those from BettyQ’s garden anymore.

    And I wonder if the farm also has a smaller mechanized scooper to take care of the lots of spilled tomatoes that fall to the ground. Sayang naman.

    Sep 2, 2015 | 4:39 am


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  3. Dreaming! says:

    The family of my sister’s husband are commercial farmers in Canada. In fact, their major crop is tomato. All picking is done by machine. They have over 200 acres planted.

    Sep 2, 2015 | 6:58 am

  4. EbbaBlue says:


    Sep 2, 2015 | 10:03 am

  5. Marketman says:

    Dreaming, how do we bottle some of their best and send it to Manila in balikbayan boxes? :)

    Sep 2, 2015 | 10:40 am

  6. Monty says:

    Hey we have a tomato processing plant in Ilocos Sur to handle the abundance during the season. After P332 million of taxpayers money spent in 1999, it has not processed a single tomato. If it does process a kilo of tomatoes, we can at least lay claim to the most expensive ketchup in the world.

    Sep 2, 2015 | 5:33 pm

  7. Kasseopeia says:

    Why hasn’t it processed a single tomato, Monty? Now I’m very curious… off to Google about it now.

    Also: these poor tomatoes! I guess they’re the type to be processed further, as I bet all that rough handling will yield bruised berries.

    Sep 2, 2015 | 7:37 pm

  8. ros says:


    Mainly because of Ilocos Sur’s penis-hammering Lord.


    Sep 3, 2015 | 12:04 am

  9. Footloose says:

    O/T For those who do not have DL’s blog bookmarked, I would like to call your attention to his very good post on his dinner at the three star Epicure in The Bristol Hotel in Paris. Great description of gorgeous food and impeccable service, and not to ingratiate myself, just like MM’s when reporting from Paris and elsewhere. http://goo.gl/SxR4Ho

    Sep 3, 2015 | 1:17 am

  10. Nacho says:

    There are basically two kinds of Tomato plants, Indeterminate, and Determinate. Indeterminate tomato plants are generally grown as table tomatoes,which are picked by hand. The fruits of an indeterminate plant form cluster after cluster like a vine, and depending on how it is managed, one can harvest for up to 8 months from the same crop. Most tomatoes for processing come from the determinate type of plant which forms its fruits all at the same time like a bush, so that the whole crop can be harvested by machine in one pass. There are naturally, exceptions to the “rule”, mostly due to how the plants are managed. These are natural varietal differences due to Hybridisation or more commonly known as cross pollination.
    I would not try to eat one of those Tomatoes, they are bred to be very fleshy and do not taste very good.

    Sep 3, 2015 | 4:37 pm

  11. Marketman says:

    Nacho, cool, I have totally learned something today. I would have no idea what a determinate or indeterminate tomato would have been before your comment. It’s a very cool factoid to have the next time I am at the dinner table and we serve something with tomatoes… hahaha. But seriously, thanks.

    Sep 3, 2015 | 9:06 pm

  12. millet says:

    whoa! so much for the “we pick only the ripest and the juiciest” tagline. and i couldn’t help but notice rows of tomatoes that the machine may have missed/crushed.

    Sep 4, 2015 | 8:00 am

  13. Kasseopeia says:

    @Ros: thanks for the link… my daily dose of “pampataas ng BP” hahaha!

    @Nacho: I learn something new everyday about one of my favorite fruits! Thank you! The Toscana stand was closed on the Sta Rosa Tagaytay road on Monday so I consoled myself with a couple of Orient buko pies and a pint of ice cream instead.

    Sep 4, 2015 | 10:53 am

  14. Faust says:

    I’ve noticed there’s wastage, tomatoes fall off from the machineries on the ground, add some amount of bruising too.

    Sep 4, 2015 | 11:02 am

  15. Nacho says:

    @MM: you are most Welcome.

    @Kasseopeia: Sorry about that, our produce has been in very short supply for a couple of months now. Typical of this time of the year, add to that some delays in turning the greenhouses around. For future reference the sales lady usually takes a day off on Tuesdays.
    Just a little bit more on bruising and wastage in the video. As previously mentioned these tomatoes are bred to be very fleshy and do not bruise easily, even when fully ripened. On the Tomatoes that were left behind, they can be seen as additional Organic Matter for the next crop when it is slowed over during land preparation. But in reality, depending where you are in the World, and clearly this is in a part of the World where wages are high, hence the machinery. It would just cost too much to have people going around picking the fruit that falls to the ground.

    Sep 4, 2015 | 4:07 pm

  16. Nacho says:

    sorry “slowed over”, should be “ploughed over”. I did not catch autocorrect at work.

    Sep 4, 2015 | 4:49 pm

  17. jackie says:

    I just noticed you have written chief of “stuff”. It should be “Staff”. =)

    Sep 7, 2015 | 2:22 pm

  18. Marketman says:

    Jackie, it’s not a typo, I did actually mean “Chief of Stuff”… it’s an old marketmanila reference that stems from the original coining of the term “Chief of Stuff” with reference to John Kerry’s assistant during his Presidential campaign who later became Barrack Obama’s assistant as well. See article here and here. My Chief of Stuff has been with us for twenty years and with my wife’s family for several more years before that… :)

    Sep 7, 2015 | 2:28 pm

  19. Lux says:

    I hope we adapt the same process in farming or picking tomatoes here too. I really do believe in working smart rather than working hard.

    Sep 8, 2015 | 3:49 pm

  20. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    Speaking of picking, manong heritage is finally getting its due acknowledgement in California history: http://audio.californiareport.org/archive/R201509041630/a

    Sep 10, 2015 | 2:38 pm


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