Food Business

Forklift Attachments And Operation For Fruit Harvesting Businesses

An off-road forklift is a versatile addition to a horticulture business, provided the right attachments are purchased. Of course, the forks on their own are useful for handling crates and harvest bins of fruit and vegetables, but where the forklift comes into its own (and can substitute for some other machines) is when specialised attachments can be used to assist with harvesting, transporting and processing. Some of these attachments must be fitted by the manufacturer, while some slip over the forks and are held in place by a pin and/or chain.

Of course, any forklift operator must have a forklift licence before they can legally operate a forklift, and all workers should be made aware of the local health and safety laws with regards to using heavy plant and vehicles.

Let’s look at a few forklift attachment options.


A sideshifter is a hydraulic system that enables the forklift operator to move the forks left and right, enabling fine adjustment of the load’s position for perfect placement. It’s especially useful when moving crates into tight spaces because it eliminates the need for the forklift operator to be accurate with vehicle placement when approaching the drop zone.

side shift

Personnel cage or order picker cage

If a horticultural MEWP is not available, and ladders are not safe, a personnel cage is a platform which sits on the forks. It is surrounded by a rail or cage and enables people to be lifted by the forklift safely. Check your local health and safety laws as to whether a safety harness is required (it is recommended). The disadvantage of a personnel cage versus a MEWP is that the forklift operator must remain on the forklift during the operation; the forklift cannot be controlled from within the cage.

personnel cage


A rotator enables the forks or another attachment to rotate 360 degrees. These are essential for harvesting that requires tipping produce from a crate, bin or drum into, for example, a hopper or cleaning equipment as part of processing freshly picked fruit and vegetables.

Tippers and bin dumpers

A tipper is similar to a rotator, but tips forwards rather than rotating to tip sideways. These are excellent when paired with a harvest bin as it allows a single off-road forklift to service a whole picking operation, collecting a bin, dumping it, then collecting another bin, and so on, as the pickers work up the aisles.


Clamps are any forklift attachment that squeezes an item when lifting, rather than supporting it from underneath (e.g. forks) or from the top (e.g. jib lifter). There are two common options: bale clamps that handle flexible bags or packages of items (e.g. wool, hay, seeds, cotton) and barrel clamps that grip barrels and drums. These streamline the process of storing and moving those kinds of packages because they don’t have to be stored on pallets. Of course, some flexible bags can be moved using forks as the handles can hang from the forks.

Drum lifters

A beak-grip drum lifter consists of a beak that clamps on the rim of a drum, while the drum is supported by a backrest.

personnel cage

Double-pallet handler

These are also called twin-tines. They enable the operator to lift two pallets side-by-side and are commonly used when stacking empty pallets. This doubles the rate of work that can be done.

double pallet handler


A good bucket attachment can turn a forklift into a small loader, enabling the operator to pick up loose materials such as soil.

Assessing the attachment

As with any attachment, you will need to understand the rated capacity (i.e. how much weight it is rated for), any specific training required (usually supplied by the manufacturer), the maintenance schedule for the attachment, and whether it’s compatible with your existing forklift.

Attachments are sometimes a compromise; using a dedicated machine might be a better long-term option. For example, personnel cages are a poor substitute for a scissor lift or boom lift, and bucket attachments are a poor substitute for a wheel loader.

About author


my name is Jodi Dangerfield. I am a writer and freelancer. I have written articles for various companies, including this one!

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