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Carrot crowning has been a significant and costly step in food processing. Crowning is a procedure that removes the thinnest possible sliver of the carrot root, which eliminates all traces of the green top. After washing, crowned carrots can be immediately diced, sliced, or peeled for the fresh-cut market. The typical food processor uses expensive and relatively slow equipment to orient and crown carrots after they have been harvested and delivered to the plant.

During the last 15 years, however, many food processors in North America have investigated the possibilities of crowning carrots in the field. This procedure offers several distinct benefits. The main advantage is that the carrots, while still in the ground, are conveniently oriented with the tops facing up and the roots pointing down. This allows for a cutting operation without the labor and machine intensive orientation of roots that occurs with crowning in the processing plant. Other advantages of field crowning include: (1) leaving the waste in the field and not at the plant, (2) reducing freight costs by not shipping waste, and (3) speeding up harvest by having a totally clean bed surface.

Several types of in-field carrot crowners have been fabricated and marketed over the past years. Limitations of these models include: (1) lack of accurate gauging, which can greatly increase waste and reduce harvested yield, (2) blunt and slow moving cutting surfaces resulting in cracking and splitting of roots, (3) high maintenance costs, and (4) lack of effective trash deflection, which allows debris to be taken into the harvester.

KPR, Inc. has released an improved machine designed to more effectively crown carrots in the field. This new crowner uses a unique cutting system that strikes the carrot roots at speeds of 50 MPH, while clearing the bed surface of debris. The cutting devices are a set of 10" concave disks that are positioned around a larger disk. A self-contained, PTO-powered hy draulic pump safely and powerfully turns the larger disk, which through a fixed ring turns the individual 10" cutting disks. The resulting motion is similar to an orbital gear - the larger disk rotates to throw debris off the surface, and the individual cutting disks orbit around the big disk while they individually turn at 1200 RPM. The cutting edges are self-sharpening because of the concave shape of the disks. These disks are durable, easy to change, and can be obtained locally. A high cutting speed plus the sharp edges enable the carrot roots to be crowned with greatly reduced cracking and splitting.

Accurate height control is equally important. Machines that lack precise height control can remove too much of the carrot root and can reduce harvested yields by 10-20%. The KPR crowner is attached to the tractor with a 3-point hitch. The attachments for the arms are slotted, allowing the crowner to "float" free in all directions on its two gauging drums. These drums ride directly on top of the carrots, giving the most precise height control. If the machine were gauged from the furrows, accuracy would be greatly reduced. Stepless adjustments to crowning height are easily made by turning cranks that raise or lower the gauging drums.

This machine can remove crowns from dicing, slicing, and baby carrots with diameters of 3/8" to 5". Due to the high speed cutting action and low drag, travel speeds of up to 5 MPH are possible, depending upon conditions. Pre-topping the carrot foliage is not necessary. Carrot tops and crowns are fully discharged to the right side of the machine. Since crowning occurs just before the harvester, the debris is thrown onto the area already harvested. This clean surface is much easier to harvest.

The KPR carrot crowner is available in two models - 1500 and 1700. These have working widths of 59" and 67", which are designed for 60-70" and 70-80" field centers, respectively. The model 1500 has 8 cutting disks and 10 cutting disks are fitted onto model 1700. These models match up well with KPR's line of AMAC root harvesters, which are also available in working widths of 59" and 67".

In the fresh market, manufactured baby carrots recently have become very popular. Currently, these carrots are crowned and cut into segments at the packing plants. An optional carrot segmenter can be fitted onto the rear of the KPR crowner. This unit can cut crowned carrots into 2 to 4 uniform segments. The segment length is fully adjustable. This system has successfully been used in Europe for many years, but only on soils that are free from rocks. After harvest, these segments only need to be washed and peeled. This is an inexpensive alternative to the costly and relatively slow crowning and segmenting machines currently used in packing plants.

Introduced in 1994, growers who own the KPR crowner are impressed with its performance compared to other machines. According to Jim Klaustermeyer of Klaustermeyer Farms; Mesa, Washington, "the crowner efficiently and cleanly removes crowns from the carrots." Jim likes not having to deal with any tops on the bed surface. It makes his harvest operation smoother. Klaustermeyer Farms runs their crowners just ahead of their AMAC harvesters. Jim mentions that in his area, most plants handling dicer and juicer carrots are requesting field crowning. Jim has also apprecited the support of the KPR personnel, who have visited his operation and made useful adjustments to his equipment.

For more information on carrot crowners, call us today at 208-536-6601.

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