First of all I would like to introduce myself. My name is Brigitte Hendrix, I am a consultant and specialized in mushroom harvesting and organization of harvesting.
I help companies worldwide to improve their yields and picking performance, see if they have the right people in the right places, and if this can be improved (organizing the harvest).
In this article I will discuss a number of questions and issues that I often see in practice, and how you can deal with them.
Harvesting mushrooms is unfortunately an underexposed part of our profession. The quality of mushrooms depends for more than 50% on the method and time of picking. By harvesting correctly and several times, you achieve a lot of extra production, and the picking costs will fall, due to a higher picking performance.
If there are any questions or interest regarding this article, you can always reach me at the following e-mail address: [email protected]
Can you improve your yield??
An important point is the selective picking of mushrooms.
This starts on day one!
How do you put a room away in order to pick good quality mushrooms for 4-5 days, this of course depends on the cultivation schedule!
This also depends on the market, can you supply large mushrooms or just make small ones, this plays a role in how to picks a room.
It is important to pick the right mushrooms on day 1 and to choose the right size, so that the other mushrooms can grow to their maximum potential.
This is important that this is done properly, in order to realize the best possible production, but this is also important for the picking performance in the further process. Picking mushrooms is more than just getting them out of the beds. Handling and selecting the right mushrooms is essential. To Creating space to grow them bigger . A mushroom with sufficient space has better evaporation and keeps the quality longer better, and will also have a better shelf life. Handling mushrooms can affect quality and shelf life.
On day 1, the picking performance will not be too high, because this is precision work and must be done properly. Care must be taken not to damage the other mushrooms in order to achieve optimum production with good quality.
It is important that pickers pick well from the groups/family.
The first rule for the thinning is; always pick the mushroom in the middle of the tight area. If you do, you will see that with just one single mushroom you can make room for many others around. If you still see a lack of space, you will of course choose more but start from the middle and you will minimize the number of mushrooms you have to choose to separate. What size is picked during parting is not the most important thing, as long as you choose from tight spaces.
This takes time and patience to teach a picker which mushrooms to pick or not to pick. Damaged mushrooms during picking affect the quality of the shelves and can be prevented through proper training and supervision of the pickers. Especially at the beginning of the flush, when the mushrooms need to be separated, damage can easily be done. At that stage it is important that the focus is on the quality of the separation rather than the speed of the picking. Separation takes time and the picking speed will be low.
If this is done properly, good and large mushrooms can be picked the following days, with a higher picking performance.
Good spread, easy to pick
It is very important that the room is picked a few times a day, with the right size mushrooms.
It is of course simple, the larger the mushroom can be delivered to the sales, the higher the production and the picking performance can be.
A mushroom with a diameter of 40 mm has a weight of approximately 22 grams, a mushroom of 55 mm has a weight of approximately 40 grams, this is 82% more, so it is definitely worth going to the table with sales and looking what are the options here.
What should certainly not can be forgotten is the stem length of the mushroom, with the right stem length you can also quickly win 10% of your yield.
Good stem length is very important
In practice you often see that the stem length is often forgotten, also explain well to a picker that this is certainly in her interest.
This is an important task for the picking leader, he/she must monitor this, and point out to the pickers if too much is being cut away, but also he/she indicates what needs to be picked.( size )
This must be clearly communicated with the pickers, a misunderstanding is easily made, and if the pickers pick too small, there is soon a loss of 1 to a few kilos per square meter.
The picking leader can easily communicate by a white board, clearly tell them what the next step is, the size of the mushroom, and in which packaging it should be picked.
For each round that is picked, the picking leader must take a good look in the room to see what the next round will be, and whether this is necessary everywhere.
As we know, not every room is equal and the same, so instructions will sometimes also have to be given for each picker.
Of course it is important not to put too many pickers in a room, this usually results in a room being picked too small, and you don’t use the pickers optimally, so a lower picking performance.
This is organizing the picking.
It is important that you know your pickers and what they can do, so that you can use them optimally.
For example, in some countries there are rules where the pickers are not allowed to work more than 8-9 hours a day, so it is important that the room is picked during those hours.
There are of course situations in which this is critical because pickers can become ill or have holidays.
What can you do in such situations?
Again, the picking leader plays an important role, he must place the right pickers in the right room, and certainly not too many, if there is already a shortage of pickers, this also forces the pickers to pick faster because they know that they cannot get help because there are no more pickers. A shortage of pickers can cause a loss of quality, too much return on the harvest costs, as the mushrooms are not given time to grow to their full potential. Make the right choice every day !!
By this I mean to say, know your pickers.
If you can use faster pickers on the thickest beds in the room, you increase the chance of picking the room as you would like.
If this does not go as planned, it is important that the room is picked as often as possible, and each time the largest mushrooms are removed to keep the beds open, this limits the damage to the quality, as soon as the mushrooms too close to each other, the quality deteriorates quickly, the mushrooms ripen, this means weight loss, and loss of quality !!
Of course, communication between the picking leader and the grower is very important in this respect, if you make a good weekly schedule, you will see an increased productive day coming, you can respond to this together with the grower, for example by lowering the temperature slightly in the room that causes the mushrooms to grow a little slower, which is why it is important to discuss the progress of the harvest with the grower on a daily basis !!
Team work !!
People can support each other in several ways.
You can also motivate pickers, by setting up a good bonus system, motivated by a good bonus system, to pick faster, they have more pay in the same time !!
This certainly has advantages for the company, the pickers are satisfied, and will not soon start working elsewhere, especially in current times with a shortage of good people, it is very important that one can maintain a good workplace.
For the company, the picking costs will decrease due to a higher picking performance.
Of course there are always pickers who don’t keep up with the rest, whatever one tries, one will have to say goodbye to such pickers in an appropriate way, during the harvest, maybe these people are in the right place in the packaging, this will one must view.
But it is important to take a close look at such people and see what they want with this.
The pickers earn the same as a good picker, and then the mentality quickly arises, why should I pick faster, after all I earn the same as a bad picker.
That’s why a good bonus system is usually a good solution for both!
When is a picker not good?
There is always a certain expectation of what a picker can pick per hour in a room, if this performance is significantly lower than the average, and the mushrooms on the beds start to lose quality because the picker is too slow, the picker can be guided again , and retraining, and see where the mistake might be, or whether she has no feeling for it at all, and whether a next step should be taken.
It is also important to keep the pickers informed and to involve them in the entire process.
Hang up the picking performance every day.
If you see strange changes, you are able to address the picker directly about this.
If you do this once a week, you often no longer know where the picker was in which room, and in which place. By publishing this daily, you are short on it, and you can intervene more quickly.
By making a good room division and combining this with the picking performance, you can easily keep an overview and know what is going on, on your farm.
This can also be done without an automated weighing system.
Other activities, such as cleaning the room or lorry’s or other activities at the farm, must be kept well separated, otherwise you will have a distorted picture of the picking performance.
This can be done, for example, by giving a picker two numbers, one for picking and one for other activities, then you have the total number of hours, but in detail.
This also immediately gives a good overview of how many other hours are made at a farm, and whether this is not too much….. many companies do not known at all how much time they spent on additional activities, this can also be too large a cost item, which can often be easily cut back, were can we save more costs ? Harvesting has become the largest expense for mushroom production, Semi-automatic picking lorry’s are the most popular investment currently made by mushroom growers and offer the highest return in terms of performance. The big advantage is that they can be used on almost every existing mushroom farm. The most farms report higher picking speeds of 15-40 percent compared to regular lorry’s.
But not only the picking performance goes up, the yield also goes up, because you can pick a room much more often with less manpower, you have more picking hours to spend due to less other work. ( move etc )
Became curious ? or do you just want more information about this article and what is possible at your farm ???
Just send an email !!!