Costs per kilogram of a mechanised harvest.
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Costos por kilogramo de una cosecha mecanizada.
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We will now calculate the cost per kilogram of mechanically harvested onions.

The cost of a mechanised harvest by kilogram of produce.

Starting point.

To avoid overcomplicating the cost calculation, we will calculate the cost of carrying out the harvest as shown in the two photos here below.

The field before harvest.

The field before harvest.

The field after harvest.

The field after harvest.

We will calculate the cost of the harvest from the situation in the left hand photo, right through to the situation on the right.

To the right, the onions are ready to be sold directly from the field, or they can also go elsewhere to be stored and processed.

As you will see, the cost per kilogram will often be less than one dollar cent.

Machinery and personnel required.

Our calculation of the cost per kilogram of produce covers the use of a haulm topper and an onion harvester.


We will use two standard sized tractors with a power take-off behind.

Due to the fact that almost all growers have a tractor, we will not consider the investment costs of tractors, but instead we will use the price of hiring tractors.

The cost of hiring a tractor is $35 an hour, and the tractor driver is paid $2 an hour ($16 each day).

Haulm topper

These days, a standard haulm topper costs between $10,000 and $12,000, depending on how specialised it is.

Onion harvester

An onion harvester costs between $12,000 and $14,000, depending on how specialised it is.

The onion harvester can only be used for harvesting onions, whereas the haulm topper can also be used to top carrots or new potatoes. To avoid overcomplicating our cost calculation, we will assume that both machines are bought solely for harvesting onions. This means that these machines need to be stored all year, remaining idle, only using them for the onion harvest.

On top of this, bearing in mind that these machines will work perfectly for 10 to 15 years with very little maintenance, we can make a simple calculation:

Fixed cost of a haulm topper and onion harvester (in USD):
The fixed cost of these two machines is keeping them shut away in a garage or shed, giving them due maintenance, paying interest and repaying them over 10 years.
Fixed annual costs of the haulm topper: Fixed annual costs of the harvester:
Repayment over 10 years:1,200 Repayment over 10 years:1,400
Interest at 7% per annum over 5 years:
 Interest at 7% per annum over 5 years:
Annual maintenance 5% per annum:600 Annual maintenance 5% per annum:700
Total Annual Fixed Costs of the topper:2,272 Annual Fixed Costs of the harvester:2,650
So, having these two machines without using them but maintaining them, repaying them and paying interest on them costs: US$ 4,922 per year, these are the fixed costs just for keeping the machines on your farm.
Variable harvest costs.
We will now calculate the variable costs per hectare working over a different number of hectares (in USD):
The capacity of these machines is 0.75 hectares per hour, regardless of the amount of onions in the field.
Number of hectares:510152050100
Working hours with haulm topper
(Number of hectares / 0.75):
Working hours with the harvester
(Number of hectares / 0.75):
Total working hours:13.426.84053.4133.4266
Total tractor costs (35 x hour)4699381,4001,8694,6699,310
Total costs for 2 tractor drivers (4 x hour)26.8053.6080.00106.80266.80522.00
Total Variable Harvest Costs:4959911,4801,9754,9359,832
Total costs per hectare (in USD):
Number of hectares:510152050100
Total Variable Harvest Costs:4969921,4801,9764,9369,832
Total costs per hectare (in USD):4,9224,9224,9224,9224,9224,922
Total costs per hectare (in USD):5,4185,9146,4026,8989,85814,754
Number of hectares:1,083591426344197147
Working days (8 hours a day):
The figures speak for themselves.
We will now calculate the cost per Kg for different levels of production per hectare (in USD):
Number of hectares:510152050100
Total work cost per hectare:973536390317186142
Cost per Kg
(production 25,000 Kg / Hectare):
Cost per Kg
(production 50,000 Kg / Hectare):
Cost per Kg
(production 55,000 Kg / Hectare):
Field before harvest.

Field before harvest.

Field after harvest.

Field after harvest.

A cost below 1 cent per kilogram of harvested product is very normal for a mechanized harvest.

1. We establish the work which needs to be done.

2. The necessary equipment and personnel.

3. We calculate the investment and the interest.

4. We calculate the fixed costs.

5. We calculate the variable costs for different numbers of hectares.

6. We calculate the costs of harvest per hectare.

7. We calculate the costs per kilogram of harvested onions with relation to production per hectare.

To go directly to the cost per kilogram of harvested onions, click: Results.

To mechanise your post harvest processes:
contact us:
+1 239 3002374
or use our (preferable)
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Address: Farm San Isidro, Volcán, Panama.