TEAM 3: Mesquite Bean Harvester

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Students (L-R)

·      Carlos Guzman

·      Victoria Garza

·      Stephanie Ramos

·      Alexandra Salinas


Faculty Advisor(s)

·      Dr. Arturo Fuentes

·      Dr. Joanne Rampersad-Ammons

·      Mr. John Pemelton



·      Dr. Noe Vargas Hernandez 

·      Mr. Greg Potter




















Welcome! We are Team #3, also known as “Team 4-I”. Our team consists of four intellectual engineering students, Alexandra Salinas, Victoria Garza, Stephanie Ramos, and Carlos Guzman. Our project is the Mesquite Bean Harvester.

Texas has a large population of honey mesquite trees (Prosopis glandulosa). The bean pods that are grown on these trees can be made into flour, jams, and jellies, which contain high nutritional benefits.


Figure 1: Honey Mesquite Beans


However, the current method to harvest these beans is limited to hand picking and manual labor. This creates a bottle neck in production due to the low quantity of beans being harvested each day. We have designed a two-part system that will shake the ripe beans off a honey mesquite tree and will catch and guide the falling beans into storage. Our system is divided into an excitation system and a collection system.

As a team, we have worked so hard to make this work efficiently and effectively. We hope that you enjoy this project as much as we did.

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Watch our Welcome Video!


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Mesquite farmers in the RGV region need an effective,

mechanized solution for harvesting mesquite bean pods.


·       Given the current trend for healthier foods and products, the demand for mesquite bean-based products has increased his calls for a new and efficient way for harvesting mesquite beans.

·       The current method of harvesting relies on time-consuming, strenuous manual labor, which has created a bottleneck in productivity.


Figure 2: The Cappadona Family Harvesting Mesquite Beans


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Click on the icon above to hear our Final Problem Statement!


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To better understand the problem, we conducted background research on the following relevant topics:


·      Complex Biology and Geometry

They can grow to be large trees reaching 30 ft in height or they can grow short with low branches to resemble a shrub. Honey mesquite trees are known to thrive in hot and dry climates and are typically found in North America within the southern states of the USA. [1]

Figure 3: Unique Patterns of Mesquite Growth


·      Historical Significance

Back in the indigenous days of the early Americas, Native Americans would pick beans and use them as a food source, source of fuel, dyes, structural material, and even alcohol.[2] Because of mesquite’s ability to thrive in arid environments, Native Americans and animals were able to eat the bean pods within the desert. Today, the mesquite tree is seen as an extremely invasive species, and the mesquite tree’s versatility and applications are not readily known by much of the public. 


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Click on the icon above to hear more about the background of mesquite!



For more information about the historical significance and uses of mesquite, please click here!



·      Information from Cappadona Interview


When beans are ripe, they are ready to be picked with almost no effort and could fall off with even the smallest gust of wind. [3] Any ripe beans that are on the trees are to be collected. It is not possible to collect beans from the bare ground due to contaminants from animals, pollutants, and molding from the ground. Containers that the beans are used for collecting must be free from any stones, sticks, branches, and other debris. Beans that are soaked, dampened, or damaged by water cannot be milled, and the area must be free of pesticides. The harvest season for mesquite beans is from early June to late September. [2]



Watch the video below to learn more about the Cappadona Family and their passion for utilizing mesquite!


Cappadona Ranch Mesquite Beans (Texas Country Reporter)

For more information and details about the Cappadona Ranch and their mesquite bean products, view their website here!



·      Safety


Because Mesquite Trees have sharp thorns which protect the areas where the flowers and beans bloom, if the user does not need to put their hands into the foliage to pick the beans, the safer they would be. Due to this need we chose vibration to be what removes the beans from the tree.


Figure 4: Sharp Thorns of a Mesquite Tree



·      Competitive Products


Some current solutions hand picking the ripe beans, tree shakers, and an olive picker. Out of these three methods only one is honey mesquite specific. Although olive pickers and tree shakers are not made to cater to mesquite harvesting, they are known to help harvest other fruits and nuts and can be useful for analysis.




Figure 5: GOBALYARD Electric Olive Harvest machine and olive shaker for olive picker.


To view this product in its website, click here!




Figure 6: The Cappadona Family Hand-Picking Mesquite Beans



Figure 7: Kadıoğlu EMR400 Walnut Branch Shaker Harvesting Machine


To view this product on its website, click here!



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Our main motivation to work on this mesquite bean harvester is to help create alternate methods of food resources. With the Earth’s ever-increasing population, alternate methods of food resources are important to investigate to discover how one can nutritionally thrive during environmental and social disasters, such as droughts, food shortages, etc. 

With this concept in mind, using mesquite beans is now more prominent within the American Southwest and is trying to be pushed towards the public. Seeing the importance of the problem, the next step would be to identify exactly who is affected by the problem and at the same time, describes how our proposed solution can affect not only the user but other affiliated parties.


Figure 8: Our Stakeholder Map Conveys the Types of Users that Would Benefit from Our Product


Our stakeholder map above shows us the people and businesses that will be directly affected by the decisions made for our designs. With the importance of our problem statement, we also must consider those affected, with the user in the center. Moving forward, the solution that must be considered will have to benefit all parties affected, either directly, or as an effect of our solution.


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“We propose the design of a two-part system that will both remove the beans safely from tree and collect them for the final stages of the harvesting process.”


After understanding the problem in depth, we explored various potential solutions and selected the best concept. This is how our product solution works: the excitation, hook device will excite the beans at the end of the trees which will fall into the awaiting collection tarp. Once hitting the tarp, the beans will pool together at the bottom of the cart.


Figure 9: Excitation Prototype Sketch


Figure 10: Collection Prototype Sketch


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Once we defined a clear solution idea (i.e. concept), we applied our engineering knowledge to transform it into a real product. These were some of the important design challenges and how we approached each one of them:


Excitation System:
The solution of using vibrations is not a new one in agricultural engineering. As mentioned before there are many forms of excitation that can be used to shake fruits or nuts down from a tree. The team investigated multiple sources such as frequency and amplitude of almonds [4], and the experimental studies of apple vibration harvesting. [5] With these academic papers in mind, we can begin our approach mathematically for vibrational design.

Before designing the hook, we needed to identify the best mode of vibration to use to cause the beans to drop. We investigated torsional, bending, and axial vibrations, studying the types of stresses they produced at the stem of each bean.


Figure 11: Types of Vibration and Their Stress Concentrations


After extensive analysis we determined that causing bending vibrations would create an optimal design due to the low frequency required to make the bean’s stem reach its natural frequency.


Figure 12: Prospective Vibration and the Range of Frequency Needed to Drop Mesquite Beans


Collection System:

The system itself would be inspired to many agricultural solutions that are applied in other harvesting methods. Specifically, the general idea of the collection of the mesquite bean pods relies on several design challenges that were set up due to the complex geometry.

1.)  The device height must have a low profile since the mesquite tree branches ranges from high to reaching down to human height. By approximating the height of the shortest branch of a sample of trees, the average was collected to determine a height reference.

2.)  The material of the collection system catching the beans needs to be robust enough to handle puncture forces from falling beans. A thorough material selection was done to ensure that the material has a longer lifespan.

3.)  Since the collection system will have to be on a large ranch and spans land several acres, the device must be robust enough to carry and harvest.

4.)  The angle of the tarp should change as desired by the consumer to adjust to different canopy heights.

5.)  The cart itself should be able to reposition its rotational position with ease.


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We found that physical prototyping was extremely helpful to increase our understanding of the problem and the feasibility of our solutions. Our first prototypes were simple but useful and we continued evolving into more complex ones.


This was our first prototype; it may be simple, but it helped us understand how using an offset mass attached to the shaft of a brushless motor would create such elevated levels of vibrations.




Figure 13: First SolidWorks Prototype – EXCITATION


Figure 14: Second SolidWorks Prototype – EXCITATION





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Click the icon above to see a video of our First SolidWorks Prototype for Collection!


Figure 15: SolidWorks Prototype - COLLECTION



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After much work, this is our final product:


Figure 16: Both Excitation and Collection in Use


The following figures and videos show the different systems and how they work individually and cohesively!



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Figure 17: Animation of Our Products in Use. Created by Carlos Guzman.




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Click on the icon above to watch the Steps to Use Excitation!




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Click on the icon above to watch the Steps to Use Collection!


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Click on the icon above to watch our Tarp Retraction and Swivel!





In this final sub-process, the final design is tested, evaluated, and optimized so that it can be used to effectively solve the problem identified. After testing and validation, the final product can be directly led to a higher level of production.

            To begin testing, the team prioritized towards the effects of vibrations our offset motor has on the bean pods.



As a team, we sought to test our offset mass motor circuit on a mesquite tree. We took unconventional measures to get the motor onto the tree.

Figure 18: Alexandra and Stephanie holding the circuit/motor assembly for testing




Figure 19: Phone Used as an Accelerometer for Testing Purposes


We used our cell phone as a means of recording our data. We used the app phyphox, which utilizes the accelerometer within a smartphone to obtain pertinent data related to excitation.


Figure 20: Acceleration vs Time Obtained from Experiment 1


For this experiment, we obtained data within an acceleration vs time graph. Within this data, one can see the lower peaks in which there is minimal excitation and one can see the higher peaks that represent the approach to resonance at that location on the branch of the tree.


With a signal like the one shown in Figure 19, the approach to this would be to apply a Fourier analysis to convert the signal from its time domain to the frequency domain. From there, the dynamic response of the mesquite bean would be obtained.


Although this data was not perfectly accurate because of the factor of the weight of the cell phone, using a lightweight accelerometer will allow us to gather useful data in the future.



For the second experiment, we wanted to prove our concept further by simulating the drop of a mesquite bean due to excitation. However, given the time of year and the passing of our harvest season, we looked to an alternative and used rubber bands to drop the mesquite bean.


Figure 21: Mesquite Bean Suspended onto Branch by Rubber Band


Figure 22: Image Showing the Mesquite Beans Suspended on a Branch with Rubber Bands


We were going to follow the exact same protocol as in Experiment 1, but our motor began to malfunction and completely stop working. We were unable to complete further testing because finding and ordering a new motor was necessary.


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Our project is a proof of concept that requires further development, these are some of the pending items:

·      In the future we would like for our prototypes to be tested during the Harvest Season.

·      A vibrational system can be created to improve movement of the tarp material to convey the beans falling form the tree into the bins.

·      We would want to replace our d/c motor wire connections and implement a Bluetooth motor to create a more maneuverable extension arm without any interference from electrical wiring.

·      We wanted to fabricate our own cart to ensure stability and make the project 100% made by us but given our budget and how we did not want to reinvent the wheel we went with a prefabricated cart that was low-quality.

·      We would like to implement the use of a low-weight accelerometer during testing to accurately obtain frequencies experienced at the stem of the bean due to applied vibrations from the motor without severely changing the properties of the experiment.

·      The process of replacement or removal of the tarp can be optimized and, ideally, the process should be simplified for the sake of the consumer.

·      In the future we would like to redesign our tarp to be wind resistant and stationary when it is fully expanded.

·      As a team, we know that the level of this project is not at its highest potential. We feel that the best option would be to pitch this wonderful project to a prospective senior design team.


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Click Here to hear about the details of our Future Work.


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The senior design process was a challenge to implement all the core fundamental engineering lessons that were learned in the classroom. With the knowledge we possessed, we, as a team, created a prototype that serves as an excellent steppingstone to the project. There were many design choices that were made during this project that we believe to be innovative and can certainly be expanded on.


Figure 23: [Left to Right] Stephanie Ramos, Victoria Garza, Alexandra Salinas, and Carlos Guzman Proudly Showcasing Their Final Senior Design Products


As a team we faced many trials throughout the course of Senior Design 1 and Senior Design 2, both in our academia life and in our own personal lives. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is safe to say that our team has made remarkable steps towards making a complete product that can be used for the Cappadona Ranch and for their growing business venture in the agriculture business. As the project continues to grow and expand with innovative ideas, we expect that the final product can become something that is innovative in the honey mesquite bean picking process.

We would formally like to thank you for viewing our website. Without the unwavering support of every single one of you, this project would not be as successful.


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[1] Bovey, R., 2016, Mesquite, Texas A & M University Press, College Station.

[2] DesertUSA.com, 2020, "Cooking with Mesquite Beans - DesertUSA", Desertusa.com [Online]. Available: https://www.desertusa.com/lil/Mesquite-Beans-recipes-lil.html. [Accessed: 02- Dec- 2020].

[3] Cappadona, Victoria, and Justin Cappadona. 2019. Review of Cappadona Ranch: Mesquite Harvesting Interview by Carlos Guzman, Alexandra Salinas, Victoria Garza, and Stephanie Ramos. https://utrgv-my.sharepoint.com/:u:/g/personal/victoria_a_garza02_utrgv_edu/EdMcC_LdGEFFk81TAuIH9a4B-SpY5AZQ2NRpi-7SNlT6iw?e=csbyx5.


‌[4] Loghavi, M. & Khorsandi, Farzaneh & Souri, Saman. (2011). The Effects of Shaking Frequency and Amplitude on vibratory harvesting of Almond (Prunus dulcis L. cv. 7Shahrood). American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting 2011, ASABE 2011. 3. 10.13031/2013.37424.

[5] Ming Liu, Fenglei Wang, Haiqian Xing, Wenli Ke, Shaochun Ma, The Experimental Study on Apple Vibration Harvester in Tall-spindle Orchard, IFAC-PapersOnLine, Volume 51, Issue 17, 2018, Pages 152-156, ISSN 2405-8963, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ifacol.2018.08.079. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405896318311959)

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We went through a meticulous design process to arrive to the final solution. The information in this page is a summary intended for the general public. To learn about the project details, visit the DESIGN PROCESS page. To obtain access contact the course instructor.


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The team received help from various persons, their help was critical to our success, we would like to acknowledge:


·      Dr. Noe Vargas

·      Mr. Gregory Potter

Faculty Advisors:

·      Dr. Arturo Fuentes

·      Dr. Joanne Rampersad-Ammons

·      Mr. John Pemelton

Hi-bay Staff and Manufacturing Assistance:

·      Mr. Hector Arteaga

·      Mr. Jose Sanchez

·      Jared Martinez

·      Bryant Salinas

·      Santana Gutierrez

·      Kane Samoso

·      The Department of Mechanical Engineering

Collaborating Business Team:

·      Sylvia Robles

·      Yasena Cantu

·      Fernando Ramirez

·      Moises Davila

·      Gerardo Reyna

·      The Cappadona Family



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