The largest problem in mushroom business worldwide is mushroom picking and logistics behind that. It can take more than 50% of mushroom production cost. However, even being ready to pay this money – mushroom growers in Poland, Netherlands as well as in USA, Canada or other countries often can hardly find those whom to pay. That is because people just do not want to do such a job – to work in wet, cool, partly-lighted rooms, bending to the shelves.
If we add to this problem the tendency that as pickers are human beings with families, they want go home before holidays – actually when the demand for mushrooms is the largest, also they often need a hotel to be built for them – finally it becomes obvious why more and more growers think about implementing modern picking solutions.
That is why companies like Christiaens Group work on picking robots, picking belts, tilting shelves, and drawer system. Recently the company has shown to Polish growers two farms – one that has tilting shelves, belt and sorting robot – second with drawer system and fully organized logistic system to pack already picked mushrooms and send them to a central area.
- Energy, farm efficiency, people – growers nowadays face lots of problems. We as Christiaens can solve them, so our solutions are the response to our clients` needs. Poland is an extremely important production land for mushrooms. As Mushroom Days were canceled – we have decided to give the growers an opportunity to come to Holland and see the most modern developments in our industry, – explains Gerard Peters from Christiaens, he is the organizer of the whole event.
Both farms have number of modern solutions. First farm that we have seen is located in Belgium, has the name Muzzroom, while the second one is in the Netherlands, its name is Heereco.
From 80 to 120 kg per hour picks the picker on tilting shelves. You have to divide this amount by 2 when considering and counting that taking of the mushrooms is done by a 2nd person. This can be atomized by a robot as well. The first one is installed as we speak. One picker stand on the platform which goes up and down – picker by itself regulates the position by the remote control. But the most important is that the shelf goes towards the picker – it changes its angle by tilting. The picker therefor does not need to bend, and sees the shelf perfectly.
Both farms have one concept in common. The pinning and harvesting are being done in separate rooms – which lowers the pressure on diseases taking into account not cooking out the rooms. The system of pulling the compost is different in those two farms, in Heereco are also different growing nets implemented. But the whole cycle is never done in the same room.
Why it works?
- We do not need steam here as no diseases can come to the farm from the used compost. Also, pickers are not allowed to come in the rooms of pinning – no dirty boots or clothes. Cooking can be implemented on my farm – but during the whole time of operation I have had no problems with desinfection. I am happy because I save all that money that other growers spend on gas, doing cooking, – tells Stefaan Lapierre, Muzzroom farm owner.
Another system that was showed to mushroom growers by Christiaens is the drawer system and complimented inventions. The room here, in Heereco, has two rows of shelving – that allows shelves to go right and left. The idea is that picker stands on the same place – and shelves with mushrooms come to him. It is a completely different approach from that usual one which makes the picker to move on the picking lorry while shelves are stable. The whole setup is the most suitable solution for automation, big data & robot harvesting.
The picking solutions are presented by a rotating disk with “fingers” between which the picker puts the mushrooms. On the platform work two pickers – they just take mushrooms and put them on the disk. Later the stem is being automatically cut. And finally, the third person on the platform takes already prepared mushrooms in the boxes. The speed of the shelf moving is being regulated by the picker itself. The special control panel is being situated on the platform. The picking is as fast as on the tilting shelve system only one robot or person is required to put the mushrooms in a punnet / box.
What is important is that the system weigh boxes so you just need to give to it the information how much grams should be in a box – and the boxes will change as soon as they have enough weight inside.
There is a special system for stems that after cutting waste through a tube into a pit outside the growing rooms . How it works? Stems fall from the platforms – then they are being grabbed by the special system in the floor – and automatically being transmitted outside the farm.
The logistics system allows mushrooms to go – already in boxes – by the conveyer to the packing house and to become packed. Actually only one person is needed just to take boxes to the storage or to the client`s lorry. If a ribbon is preferred you can install the same setup as on the tilting shelves.
The owner of this modern farm is Jeffrey Heeren.
- Mushroom business was started by my farther. Now three of my children joined. I have chosen Christiaens because I wanted to give my children a future in this business. I mean to leave them the farm that will be still modern and competitive in 10 years. If you ask me what mushroom business is going to look like in 10 years – I am confident in two things. Great number of such farms with drawer system will be built, and people will consume mostly local mushrooms, – tells Jeffrey Heeren, owner of Heereco farm.
Participants of the tour also were welcome to Christiaens facilities. Now company employ counts about 100 people, and additional 100 temporary employees, agency workers, contractors.
Company`s production facilities in Holland unites 11 halls 1800m2 each. To find something in those large areas in Christiaens they even use QR codes near products in the store. Christiaens Group also has a production facility in China
- If you think the future is somewhere far from you – you are not right. That is already here for mushroom industry, – says Wim van Vugt from Christiaens Group.
And that is not just Christiaens Group`s opinion.
- We see how the future starts now, – tells John Clay from Amycel. – I see that this trip was joined by so many young Polish attendees of new, future generation of mushroom growers and composters! They want to make their business differently, turn it to really modern and effective! They are extremely enthusiastic. I think this young generation with the backup of new technology developments will soon drive mushroom industry to the new future.