Andriy Hladkykh, consultant
Industrial mushroom production face many challenges and there are many variables on daily basis to take into account: variable raw materials, capricious markets staff shortages, ever changing weather conditions to name a few. At times, the line between profit and loss is very thin and the grower needs to be on ball to make it success. And good planning helps to mitigate a lot of those challenges. It normally starts with good steady growing cycle.
It is important to point out from the beginning that not all farms easily fit into exact repetitive schedule, normally 5 or 6 weeks, and in order to get best possible efficiency from the operation you have to aim to get to constant cycle (even if this means building more growing rooms or leaving some empty!!) in perfect world every day is same but as this isn’t possible, the next best thing is as short a cycle as possible.
And for mushroom growing a week is a natural cycle. If you fill same amount of compost (or same area m2) on weekly bases, you can plan your production and very importantly set up routine for all personnel. And good old routine is the “Alfa and omega” of a successful operation. Majority of people love routine and hate change -fill on same day, cool down on same day of and follow similar growing plan and everything falls in its place:
- Flushes will start on same days;
- Waterers know their daily tasks;
- engineers and other service staff know when to service equipment;
- less fluctuation of the crop enables planning of sales etc.
People can plan their tasks, days off etc. Everyone knows what to expect on daily basis and can plan their week. Once routine is set, you can really concentrate on details and look for improvement by comparing KPI’s from week to week.
It is consistency that allows operation to achieve top results and makes all the aspects predictable and manageable Management of sales and staff is impossible without good crop forecast.
It is feasible that in the near future there will be an application on your smartphone that will take a picture of a cropping area and adding some key parameters (like m2 and compost t) will assist in predicting mushroom growth. However, until such times nothing replaces experience and good old Growers eye.
Good forecast is the key of smooth running operation. Without good forecast plan off sales and picking is impossible. Of course, steady cycle makes it a lot easier to predict the crop. You normally start with historic data and work out the average daily kg/m2 by flush, for example:
Day 2 in first flush is one of the most important days. And amount and sizes picked on this day will define day 3 and 4 and the whole flush. Example: picking too much medium will result in smaller day3 and smaller 1st flush yield. Picking small only and leaving large and medium untouched may result in 8+ kg /m2 on day3 and risk of losing control
Using the above, you make a prediction (guesstimate) what is expected in each of your growing rooms. And you end up with projected volume by day by room as per table below:
Simple forecast kg
Once this is done you can start planning sales and days off, you also see low and high crop days and potential problems for your picking team. You can even try to slow down or speed up the growth in rooms By checking this against factual kgs the next day you calibrate and perfect your skill!
In all fairness, most of growers get this part right, weekly forecast – once room is filled and even more so once cooled down – is quite accurate normally deviation is less than 5%
Nevertheless, planning of picking and sales requires more detailed short-term forecast, and your next day or 3-day forecast is completely different animal. as much as grower wants to play “god”- mushrooms regularly have something to say about it
And of course picking itself can make a big difference to your daily figures: over picked rooms will give less and unfinished – more. You also have to take into account activity of compost and outside conditions and the pinsets
This is only one part of the process. You work out how many kg are on the bed – but you still have to pick them
To take it to next level you break it down by size – usually large medium small and 2 class
And pickability will depend on available working hours on the day (No of pickers X shift hours) and mushroom sizes to be picked
here the size really matters:
Most common mistake is to overlook make-up of the volume to be picked on the day – you can have really small volume kg on the farm to be picked, but if this is mainly thinning with small sizes – you can easily end up short of pickers and being unable to finish the beds properly, thus loosing yield or quality
It is difficult, almost impossible to replace experience – but the more info you take into account – the more accurate your planning will become. Complex problems are solved by breaking them down to manageable tasks
And managers’ feel for it based on years of experience ( similarly to intuition) is in fact ability to take all these parameters into account and provide quick answer without going through all the calculation –in fact they simply happen on the background
Why do all this as you never get it spot on – too many variables? Well …bad plan is better than no plan. Once you establish parameters that have to be accounted – the only thing which is prevented from getting it right is laziness or rush; forgetting to check top shelves, skipping some parts or even rooms, doing it too early in the day before seeing how the beds are going to look like after picking.