Most small to mid-sized hop growers in North America are using hop picking machines made by Wolf Geisenfeld in the early 70's and 80's. Small to mid-sized meaning 1-100 acres of hops. The early technology of the german-engineered hop picking machine was quickly perfected from the first protoypes "Typ I" and "Typ II" to become the WH 140. The WH 140 was Wolf's first hop picking machine that took care of the bine from start to finish. The freshly cut bine is fed into the front of the machine where it is being processed through multiple steps from picking to separating leafs, stems and cones. The most impressive part of this picking machine simply is that the bine goes in at the front and the hop cones come out on one side and the bine is being pulled out of the back of the machine where it's immediately chopped and blown to the moon where the farmer doesn't have to deal with the trash. Perfect! The Hopfenpflückmaschine was born and from then on, Wolf steadily continued and perfected this design of the horizontal hop picking machine until today.
Some of you wonder what the numbers mean that come after the letters of the model numbers of these Wolf machines. The 140 stands for 140 bines / hr at continuous operation of the machine. But the machine tag will provide a capacity range that the particular model can process. Here is an example of this filthy tag of a 1971 WH 220. The circled numbers in the box that indicates Leistung/Reb/h says 180/240. So, not only the bavarian farmer understands that, this is what it means. The Capacity of bines per hour ranges from 180 to 240 bines per hour. It is indicated as a range because one machine picks different varities that vary in size and thickness. Sometimes a machine has to be slowed down or only every 2nd bine hook is being loaded in order to achieve efficient picking. Here you go, now you know!
Not long after succesfully selling the WH 140 and WH 220 Wolf made some significant changes to the design and location of the bine chopper within the machine and called the machine WHE. The WHE 140 and WHE 220 are being manufactured in Bavaria by the hundreds in the early 1970s. Soon after, Wolf started producing 170 and 280 models with more picking drums and slight changes to the main power transmission, bine chain drive and bine chain guiding. From then on, Wolf went bigger and bigger with models like WHE 300, WHE 340, WHE 400, WHE 511, and their latest model WHE 513. Unfortunately the production of WHE 170 and WHE 280 was discontinued in the 80s. The vertical machines (WSZ) will be talked about in a later blog post.
Wolf's first machines are still amongst the most popular machines for small to mid sized hop growers in Europe and North America. The machines are build with simple technology and essentially every part can be replaced if it's worn or broken. Repair parts are available and with regular maintenance and care these machines will be picking hops for many more decades to come. Luckily Sea to Sky Hop Solutions as the only supplier for repair parts for Wolf machines in North America has vast knowledge of these machines and keeps stock of most common repair parts in beautiful British Columbia, Canada from where it ships to customers all over the world.
The WHE 140 and 220 models are the thriftiest option for a high efficiency picking machine out there and can be loaded into a 40' HC sea container and shipped anywhere in the world. Sea to Sky Hop Solutions Ltd specializes in the installation, service, inspection, overhaul and transportation of these machines.
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