5 Ways To Harvest Olives – Which Is The Best?

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guy explaining how to harvest olives, illustration

There are more ways to pick olives from the tree, and today I’ll show you five ways to pick olives. I’ll also thoroughly describe each method, how it’s done, and which method of harvesting olives is the quickest and the best. 

Five ways of harvesting olives are:

  1. By using electric tree harvesters
  2. Harvesting with plastic rakes
  3. Picking olives by hand
  4. By using large machinery for olive harvesting (for large olive growers only)
  5. Waiting for olives to fall

PREPARATION: Harvesting Nets

Before I dive into the various ways of picking olives, there’s a preparation step you should always do before you start harvesting them from the tree. You do that by placing a harvesting net under the olive trees.

Without harvesting nets, all the olives will fall to the ground, and it’ll be tough to collect them from there. Also, it’ll slow you down a lot. 

So, always install a harvesting net under the tree so that it can collect all the olives you pick from the tree. 

Now that you know the preparation step, we can see ways of picking olives!

1. By Using Electric Tree Harvesters (Shakers)

Using electric tree harvesters is probably the best and quickest way for harvesting olives. Of course, that’s if we talk about small to medium olive growers. 

Electric tree harvesters work by shaking tree branches and leaves so that all the olives from the branch fall down to the ground (harvesting net). 

There are different types of tree harvesters. Some harvesters work only by shaking the branches, while others (most) work by rotating or moving their rakes to safely harvest olives from the tree. 

Here’s an example of one type of electric olive harvester.

PROS
  • Speed
  • Less physical work
  • Extremely easy to use
  • Easy to use with expandable (telescopic) wands
CONS
  • Not all olives will fall to the net

2. Harvesting With Rakes

Harvesting with combs is the most common way people pick olives. Even though it’s not the fastest way out there, it’s still satisfactorily fast

and extremely cheap. All you need is some plastic combs like in the image above. 

This method works by pulling a rake from the ends of the branch towards the tips. Combs will pluck the olives from the branches, and they’ll fall to the harvesting net. 

By picking olives using this method, you’ll probably need ladders, so you can climb on them and reach the top of the tree to harvest as many olives as possible. 

PROS
  • Almost no investments are needed
  • The most common way people harvest olives
  • Very safe for olive trees
CONS
  • Pretty slow compared to harvesting by using electric harvesters
  • Requires more physical work 

3. Picking Olives By Hand

Picking olives by hand is the oldest way of olive harvesting. Not many people still use this method, but you should know about it. 

For instance, one of the oldest olive trees on Mediterranian is harvested by hand only, and it’s because they want to keep it alive as long as possible. Harvesting by hand is the safest way of picking olives. 

Usually, people who use this method wear an apron, and then they pick olives by using their hands only. All the olives they collect end up in that apron and are later transferred to bags or containers. 

As I already said, this method is the safest one for the tree, but not only that. It’s exceptionally safe for olive fruit too, and the fruit won’t suffer literally any damage.

Honestly, I don’t see any reasons why you should still use this method unless you’re harvesting some ancient tree mentioned above. 

PROS
  • the safest way for picking olives, both for tree and the fruit
CONS
  • the slowest way
  • requires a lot of physical work
  • unprofitable

4. Picking Olives By Using Large and Expensive Machinery

At the beginning of an article, I said that this method is for large olive growers only, and it’s because of the price of harvesting machines. These are giant machines that shake trees in order to pick olives from them. They are extremely expensive, and unless you have hundreds or even thousands of olive trees to harvest, there’s no ROI on them. 

In the video above, you can see an example of those machines harvesting olives. 

Using these machines is undoubtedly the quickest way, but the most expensive one at the same time. The best thing about them is that you barely need any people for harvesting, except those who will drive and navigate the machinery. 

PROS
  • the quickest way of harvesting olives
  • needs fewer workers
  • great for large olive growing companies
CONS
  • extremely expensive
  • not suitable for most olive growers

5. Waiting For Olives To Fall By Themselves

The last way of harvesting olives I’ll talk about today is waiting for olives to fall by themselves. This method works by installing the harvesting net under olive trees and then waiting for olives to fall. 

A friend of mine harvests olives by using this method because he doesn’t have plenty of free time, and also, his olive trees are on an island while he lives on the continent. 

I’m completely against this method because it takes too long. Also, olives should be very ripe to fall from the tree by themselves, which is often too ripe for producing high-quality olive oil

Furthermore, you’ll need enough harvesting nets to cover all the trees you have for this method. So, if you have plenty of olive trees, investing in so many harvesting nets may be an unnecessary cost. 

For instance, you only need 2-3 harvesting nets for picking olives using electric tree harvesters or plastic combs. Of course, it depends on how many people pick olives, but it’s much less than required by this method. 

PROS
  • suitable for people who live far from their olive farm
  • for people who don’t have enough time to harvest olives
  • may be suitable for the elderly since it’s effortless
CONS
  • olives will often get too ripe
  • it takes a lot of time for all the olives to fall naturally

Conclusion – Which Method Is The Best? 

In the end, I want to give you my opinion on which olive harvesting method you should use. All of the methods are fine to use, but by following my advice, I think you’ll get the best idea of how to pick olives quickly, that’ll also have profitability in the end. 

In my opinion, combining the first two methods (using electric harvesters and plastic combs) is the fastest and most profitable way to pick olives.

First, you should harvest most of the olives using harvesting machines, and then you should pick the rest by using some plastic combs. 

Related: How To Pick Olives Fast?

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