By: Alyssa L. Ochs
Choosing the right equipment is one of the most important decisions a vineyard owner will ever make, especially since heavy pieces of machinery are significant investments built to last for many years. Some companies that cater to the needs of vineyards specialize in just certain, niche types of equipment, while others are one-stop shops that offer nearly everything required to grow and harvest grapes for making wine.
To help you narrow your options, here are five top companies offering vineyard equipment and what makes them stand out as suppliers in this industry.
Gearmore, Inc. is an employee-owned business specializing in implements for the agricultural and light construction industries. Based in Chino, California, Gearmore has been in business for approximately 60 years and provides quality implements through servicing tractor dealers.
Robert Giersbach, the marketing manager for Gearmore, told The Grapevine Magazine, “We have always placed a priority on vineyard implements due to the large acreage on the west coast. There are about 900,000 acres of vineyards in California, which includes table, raisin and the largest being 615,000 acres of wine grapes.”
Since growing grapes requires many types of machinery, Gearmore offers 24 unique implements for vineyards in varying widths and capacities. These include vine trimmers, leaf removers, pre-pruners and multiple pieces of spraying equipment. Gearmore also offers compost spreaders, rotary tillers, soil conditioners, weeders, cultivators and numerous other options relevant to essential vineyard work.
“The California vineyards are planted in row spacings from four to 12 feet, with six- and eight- foot rows now being the most popular. The coastal vines are using mainly trellis with vertical shoot positions, but the hotter Central Valley requires a trellis system, such as California sprawl, double cross arms or quad.”
Kingsburg Cultivator, Inc. was established near the small, rural town of Kingsburg, California in the 1950s as an agricultural equipment manufacturing and repair company. Chuck Norris from Kingsburg Cultivator said that his company offers a wide range of equipment and solutions for all seasons.
“We specialize in berm management solutions, which include our products made in the central valley of California,” Norris said. “We also import equipment out of Italy known as Orizzonti. Within our berm management division, we have mowers, blades, discs, sweeps, tillers, paddles and string weeders. We have single-sided and double-sided frames that we can mount in either the front or rear front or rear of the tractor based on the needs of the customer.”
KCI’s pruning division offers various pre-pruning solutions available in both single and double-sided frames. These options include sickle bars, disc pruners and high-speed skirters with many adjusting configurations available year-round.
“Our Orizzonti line offers different length shredders as well,” Norris said. “You can interchange flail blades or hammers in any of the shredders we offer. Our spreader division consists of vineyard models and has interchangeable attachments for different applications. We offer a KCM 58 and KCM512 with bander and spinner attachments. The spreader dimensions are five inches wide by eight inches long and five inches wide by 12 inches long. The banding configuration comes in five-, six- and eight-inch lengths. Our supersealed bander allows little to no loss in product.”
KCI has been a manufacturer of vineyard equipment for over 65 years, starting with a belt drive skirter that operated off the crankshaft of the tractor. Since then, the company has stood out because of the quality of its products, outstanding service and replacement parts on hand.
“Since the beginning of time, we at KCI have had a high expectation of product quality and durability, and we stand behind our products,” Norris said. “Customer and field service also is what sets us apart from other similar businesses. With our experienced office and shop staff, we can help our customers timely and efficiently. KCI makes sure to prepare and have replacement parts on the shelf ready for when our customers are in need. We understand that downtime is a very costly expense and always keep the customers’ best interests in mind. With us being a fabrication shop, in some cases, we can even build parts for equipment other than ours if our customer isn’t able to find the part needed. We also do field repairs of our equipment for our customers with service trucks and skilled technicians if we can’t diagnose and troubleshoot the problem over the phone.”
New Holland Agriculture, a subsidiary of CNH Industrial, brings over 125 years of experience to the industry and serves vineyards with specialty tractors and grape harvesters. Tanner Cady, a viticulture marketing specialist for specialty tractors and harvesters at the company, told The Grapevine that New Holland Agriculture’s specialty tractors come in various ranges for horsepower, width, height and traction style, specifically the T4F/V, T3F and TK4 models.
“Wine grapes range in row spacings from 3.5 feet to 11 feet,” Cady said. “We have three different tractor widths – 42 inches (T4V), 55 inches (T3F) and 63 inches (T4F) – to fit those applications. In most scenarios, height is not a problem like it is for table grapes. And depending on the size of the operation, you can choose between 80, 90, 100 or 110 horsepower for the T4F/V and 60, 70 and 80 horsepower for the T3F.
New Holland has a tractor built for vineyards planted on steep hillsides, too, the TK4 Crawler.
“This tractor is available in different horsepowers, widths and heights,” Cady said. “Depending on producers’ applications, they may want one with or without a cab, one that is 46 inches wide or 70 inches wide or lastly, one with only 80 horsepower versus 100 horsepower. The T3F also has a very low center of gravity that makes it useful on hillsides, too.”
New Holland Agriculture’s grape harvesters are available for row widths of 3.5, 4.5, 5.5 and 7.5 feet. The horsepower ranges are from 128 to 182, and three different cleaning styles are available: straight to tank, destemmer and Opti-Grape.
“Straight to tank is our most basic way of removing mog,” Cady said. “This is made up of two to four fans. Those fans are standard with all other forms of cleaning. Destemmer is our mid-range form of cleaning. It acts as a sieve while forcing grapes to fall through a mesh belt. It then collects the leaves, wood and anything else that isn’t a grape to continue down the belt and over the back of the machine onto the ground. While destemming, it also breaks up the clusters and collects the rakis while directing the grapes to the hopper. Opti-Grape is our premium sorter. This is done with what we call an ‘Air Knife.’ It uses pressurized air to discharge everything other than grapes out the side of the machine, leaving a nearly perfect sample in the hopper that is ready for the winery and requires no additional sorting at the winery.”
New Holland is unique in the industry because it is the only manufacturer to make grape harvesters and tractors under the same umbrella.
“Also, both our harvesters and tractors run FPT engines,” Cady said.” “This is particularly important when it comes to harvesters. Other grape harvester manufacturers run a third-party engine that requires separate technicians from those who will service the harvester itself — one unit and two technicians for servicing. With the New Holland grape harvesters, our technicians are trained on both the engine and the harvesting mechanisms, meaning we can service both in the same visit.”
Kubota Tractor Corp. introduced its first tractor to the U.S. in 1969 and has expanded to offer many products today, such as utility vehicles, lawn mowers, construction equipment, agriculture tractors and hay equipment. Erik Lisitza, Kubota’s product manager for specialty tractors, told The Grapevine that his company offers various power units and implements for the vineyard market.
“Kubota’s M Narrow Series tractors, which includes the M4N and M5N, are offered in both open station and cab models with three horsepower ranges and multiple transmission options, in addition to the M5N Power Krawler Narrow CAB half-track model,” Lisitza said. “Our implements for mowing, seeding and tillage are offered through our Land Pride brand.”
Kubota introduced its second-generation M5 Narrow Series at the exhibitor grounds at the World Ag Expo in February 2023, which includes two new models, the M5N-112 and the M5N-092. The durable workhorse tractor users have come to rely upon remains at the core of these latest models. However, updated comfort features and visibility enhancements are now available while using them among the rows and vines.
“Our consistent offering and being known for our simple and reliable tractors is what makes Kubota stand out as a provider of vineyard equipment,” Lisitza said. “Our knowledgeable dealer network works and lives where the vineyards are, and they know their customers and the specific needs of their industry.”
Headquartered in Tualatin, Oregon, Jacto Inc. offers high-tech products and innovative solutions for the agricultural industry and has a presence in over 100 countries. Jacto has a history that dates back over 75 years and has plants and offices in Argentina, Brazil, Thailand and Mexico.
Walter Mosquini, Jacto’s international sales manager, told The Grapevine that the primary sprayers that his company sells to vineyards are the airblast sprayers. Jacto offers 13 different models of airblast sprayers ranging from 50 gallons to 1,000 gallons.
“We also offer a mini-tower kit for four different models to provide even better coverage to the crop. The other type of sprayer the vineyard market buys from Jacto is a hooded herbicide sprayer to spray weeds between the rows while protecting the crops from chemical drift.”
Mosquini said that Jacto is unique as a vineyard equipment provider because of its global presence and long history in the industry.
“We offer many models of sprayers, from hobby vineyard operators to extensive corporate vineyards,” he said. “Our sprayers are built to withstand the heavy use found in commercial farming. Our Arbus 200 sprayer can be operated with an 18-horsepower tractor, keeping the tractor and sprayer cost at a minimum.”
Choosing Equipment for Your Vineyard
Each of these companies has something unique to offer vineyards, and the industry leaders who work for them can provide helpful advice for choosing new equipment to grow grapes.
Giersbach from Gearmore said, “When asked by growers what equipment they may need, we ask about the row width, tractor model and what operation and outcome they hope to achieve. Yet established growers usually know exactly what they need and do not require our input.”
Cady from New Holland Agriculture recommends buying equipment that does not run a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF).
“You will only find this with New Holland equipment; we maintain a low carbon footprint without the need for a DPF,” Cady said. “Also, consider your acreage, terrain, row spacing and yield when choosing a harvester or tractor. Those play considerable factors in the make-up of the equipment a producer will need to purchase.”
Mosquini from Jacto shared his company’s sprayer selection guide with The Grapevine, a guide designed to help vineyards determine the model of sprayer that will work best for their needs. The guide addresses 12 essential factors to consider, starting with the type of crop, the number of acres to be sprayed, the typical galloon sprayed per acre and pump capacity. Tractor speed, row spacing, crop height, turning area and crop density are other factors to consider.
Lisitza from Kubota advises vineyard owners looking to buy new equipment to talk with a local dealer for the best advice before making a major purchase.
“They know our equipment, and they know your business and the vineyard market. Their knowledge can help you get into the right piece of equipment for your operation,” he said.
Norris from KCI advises prospective customers to do their homework and ensure their fields are set up properly to run the equipment they are trying to purchase.
“Make sure to include photos, videos, row spacings, type of field and irrigation techniques to ensure the mechanized equipment won’t damage or cause more issues than your current practices,” Norris said. “If your field is not set up correctly but you want to move to more mechanized techniques, make changes to your field before the purchase. Also, make sure the company supports your equipment with service and parts availability. The sense of assurance when your equipment malfunctions or is damaged and parts are a call away is priceless. Reliability is very important for the product you plan to buy as well. Do research into the company producing the machine of interest. This can include looking at reviews and comments on Google, asking current owners of the machine and going to see the machine run in the field for yourself.”