Harvester / Picker

Agriculture contributes 2.4% to the national economy, employs around 810 000 people and is key to securing food security in South Africa. Following crop production or cultivation of crops, fruit, vegetables, fibre and grains, for example, is harvested manually or with machinery. As a key part of the agricultural value chain, crops need to be carefully picked at the right time to be processed, packaged and distributed for consumption.

Harvesters or pickers manually extract crops from orchards or fields ensuring that quality is not compromised during the handling process. They select crops to harvest according to size and ripeness and discard overripe produce. They load harvested produce onto containers or bundles and move them to collection sites where they are sorted and packed. Some harvesters or pickers operate special handheld equipment for specific crops such as nuts, for example.

Harvesters or pickers work in small teams with other harvesters on farms, exposed to the natural elements. They work with ladders, mechanical hoists, spades and other equipment and are required to wear protective clothing such as gloves, boots, overalls etc. Work can be seasonal, depending on the crop.


Harvesters or pickers need to be able to identify crops and know when and how to pick crops without causing damage, and will also benefit from:

  • Physical stamina and strength
  • Foundational measuring and mathematical ability
  • Basic machine and mechanical operating capability
  • Ability to work as part of a team


Select and harvest crops according to size, shape and colour

Load crops into containers or bind crops into manageable bundles and bales

Prepare work sites and strategically manage crops into workable units

Transport crops to collection sites, preparing and assisting the loading of goods onto conveyors, trucks, trailers or containers


Harvesters or pickers can benefit from a National Certificate in Plant Production at National Qualifications Framework Level 1 and 2 offered at  Peritum Agri Institute, Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute, Vineyard Academy, CTC College, Ekurhuleni Agricultural College and Tompi Seleka College of Agriculture. However, most training takes place on the job with mentoring by experienced farm workers.



Related career paths