“We harvest with one mechanical harvester per row, each one geared with auto steer and trash extraction systems,” says Ken McDuffie, senior VP of sugarcane operations for U.S. Sugar. “They’re harvesting about 50 tons an hour per machine.” That’s almost 1.2 acres an hour – or about 1000 tons per machine, per day.
All of U.S. Sugar’s cane harvesters are John Deere models and all use JD Link. “Each machine is wired in with JD Link so we can see engine health, RPMs at all times, fuel burn,” McDuffie said. “We were able to conserve about 1-2 gallons per hour (of fuel) last year using monitoring systems on the engines from John Deere.”
It was only about 20 years ago that all of the sugarcane harvesting in Florida was done by hand, as it is still done in less developed countries. “Each machine replaced about 40-50 people, back in the hand cut days,” said McDuffie.
Listen to my interview with Ken here and watch the video below to hear more and see the harvesters in action: Interview with Ken McDuffie, U.S. Sugar
In case you are wondering about the birds, snowy egrets follow the harvesters around the fields to eat up the worms and bugs the machines dig up.