unnerving that the most innovative ideas seem to be emanating from our Eastern European colleagues
Wraclow Agricultural Institute professor Larc Czekiob instructs his students to think radical in their horticultural projects. He wants them to utilise their relative inexperience in the expanding mushroom industry by adopting a fresh approach to their thinking, unhindered by the constraints of established methods. The fruits of his philosophy are now being realised via several ongoing successful projects. A selection of some of these are summarised:
Project WAI-04235. Ph3 Tunnel Spawning
To improve hygiene risks, reduce labour and capital building costs, in conjunction with the Institute Engineering Dept., the construction of a “internal spawning machine”. The unit is a narrow compost “turner” parked initially within compartments added to each end of a Ph3 tunnel. After Ph2 conversion the machine is then filled with spawn and driven through the compost, mixing and adding spawn as it travels along the tunnel. This removes the need for complicated hygiene arrangements otherwise necessary in an expensive spawning hall. Students have also allowed for breakdowns by constructing the unit as a seven piece modular unit. Depending on the actual fault, the maximum of 14 accessible bolts need to be undone to remove the whole unit, or less for a higher module.
Project WAI-010404. Regulated casing Inoculum
Trials progress with a technique of injecting powdered casing spawn into fully watered casing materials 4 days after casing and maximum watering. The cac is injected via a purpose built unit as thin vertical columns through the casing depth at regular intervals across the mushroom beds. The optimum separation has been identified as 29mm for the individual insertions. During watering, spawn growth from the compost is suppressed. After cac injection watering then ceases and airing of the house is made the following day. Growth quality of casing growth is greatly improved as is evenness of subsequent crops. Final internal casing growth stranding is seen to be ideal for the transport of compost nutrients. Surface growth is described as normal. Negative finer redundant casing growth is eliminated. Significant improvements are also seen in mushroom fruitbody quality and solidity as is the evenness of crops whilst gradual development is maintained i.e. crops remain ideally staggered. The technique may also be modified by a reduction in the insertion separation to provide crops for traditional mechanical harvesting.
Project WAI-04239. Mechanical Harvesting
To date, a major limitation to mechanical harvesting has been linked to the complexity of visual recognition software i.e. identifying the next individual fruitbody to harvest. The actual picking mechanisms (vacuum head) on the other hand have been most efficient. The recognition software has been replaced by remote screen “selection” harvesters. The co-ordinates of the selected mushrooms are identified via touch screens by harvesters who do not need to be in the actual growing room. These co-ordinates are then passed to the multi-actuator picking head which then performs the actual task of harvesting. Teams of 3 harvesters of which only one needs to service the picking unit have reached impressive speeds. Including set-up and removal from the room (tests were done on commercial units), pick rates of 375 Kg. per hour have been achieved = 275 lbs / hour / worker. It is anticipated that the attendant worker would receive pay at a premium rate whilst the satellite harvest assistants (who could be home based) would receive standard rates. Travel and recruitment difficulties in Poland would be eased by 2/3 of the harvesting staff potentially being able to work from home. Quality assessments showed the machine harvested mushrooms to be superior to those hand picked.
Translation of article published in Micopathologia Polonica, Jan 04.
Comment: It is unnerving that the most innovative ideas seem to be emanating from our Eastern European colleagues!