The production unit at Claremorris was constructed in 1989 and was then known as Connaught Mushrooms Ltd. The project was a joint venture between Carbury Mushrooms and NCF (North Connaught Farmers). There are 60 growing tunnels all 9 m x 34 m. Initially, 12 growers rented 5 growing rooms each on the site and mushrooms were produced on phase II compost in bags. Weekly production was then around 60,000 lbs. The farm was taken over by Monaghan Mushrooms in 2004 and further developed to what is now a flagship farm for the Irish Mushroom industry.
CURRENT PRODUCTION The farm is now fully equipped with a shelf growing system on phase III compost supplied by Carbury Compost Ltd. Each tunnel has 3-row, 3-level shelving or 343m2 of growing area per tunnel. The shelving is 30 m x 1.27 m. The farm operates a 6 week growing cycle, growing 3 flushes of closed cup mushrooms. Ten tunnels are filled each week with 290 tonnes of compost and weekly production is in excess of 240,000 lbs. The target on the farm is to achieve 900 lbs/tonne or 34.5 kg/m2. This will be achieved by attention to detail at all levels of production on the farm, in particular filling, casing, growing and harvesting operations. Figure 1 shows the performance on this farm from the end of 2005 to the first quarter of 2009. Yield has steadily increased over that period to the current level of around 850 lbs/tonne. Production peaked at 900 lbs/tonne in the third quarter of 2008. Since then there has been a renewed focus on quality at little cost to yield. However, it is our intention to consistently achieve 900 lbs/tonne of quality mushrooms.
COMPOST MANAGEMENT Compost management is important to ensure consistency on the farm. Every load is evaluated at filling and compost temperature, moisture and structure is noted and this effects decisions on compost and case watering. Great care is taken in setting up machinery for filling and in achieving a consistent and even fill, aiming for 88 kg/m2. Figure 1. Claremorris mushroom production (lbs/tonne)
CASING MANAGEMENT Seeking consistency in supply of peat, the farm has recently switched to 100% bulk casing. Each load is evaluated for structure and moisture on arrival and this determines how much water is added. A casing depth of 55 mm is evenly applied and is turned on the day of casing. The farm aims to work to a blueprint with only minor changes dictated by compost or casing quality. A typical case watering regime is as follows: Day 0: 6 l/m2 (Casing day) Day 1: 5 l/m2 Day 2: 1 l/m2 Day 3: 6 l/m2 (top shelves reduced watering) Day 4: 3 + 2 l/m2 (2 applied after ruffling) Day 5: recovery Day 6: breaking
CACING/RUFFLING Casing is surface caced with compost which has been placed in bags at filling. This cac is weighed out and 4 kg is applied to all bottom and middle shelves while 6 kg is applied to top shelves. This is ruffled in and lightly pressed. During recovery, air temperature is increased slowly using the Fancom panel to 21 oC. The aim is to have compost temperature at 26 oC at the start of breaking.
BREAKING During the first 24 hours, air temperature is reduced to 20 oC. Once the compost starts to turn, the air temperature is set to reduce at 0.02 oC/hour, to reach 18 oC after 4 days. This is giving a good spread of pins, essential for the picker performance being achieved on this farm.
FIRST/SECOND FLUSH WATERING Water is normally applied on the day before clearing the first flush. This is at 1.5 to 2.0 l/m2. Then 10 l/m2 is applied at clearing over 5 applications. Water is also applied on the day before clearing the second flush (1.5 l/m2) followed by 3 l/m2 at clearing. No more water is applied for third flushes.
HARVESTING Managing harvesting is the key to the success of this farm. Graze picking was introduced in October 2005 and a supervisory structure was put in place. Staff are properly trained from day 1 and all new harvesters are entered into the FETAC Level 4 Specific Purpose Certificate in Mushroom Harvesting Course. There are now 20 teams of 6 pickers and these are managed by 3 supervisors, each responsible for 6 or 7 teams. As noted above, the cropping area in each tunnel is 343 m2. First flushes are picked by 6 pickers; second flushes are picked by 4 pickers and third flushes are picked by 2. The target is for each picker to pick 2,300 lbs per week. The pick rates have steadily improved since the introduction of training and graze picking. Figure 2 shows the increased rates for the farm, showing an average pick rate of 60 lbs per hour. For the first quarter of 2009, pickers earned in excess of € 10 per hour. Supervision of picking is essential and both supervisors and pickers are given responsibility. Targets are set for each supervisor and each picker. A bonus system is in place for supervisors based on their performance; yield/quality (revenue), pick rate and quality are the drivers on the farm.
FARM PERFORMANCE Reports are produced in real time using the Monaghan mushroom data capture system. Managers and supervisors have access to this data. This information is updated several times daily and information on daily/hourly production is available and up to date. This information allows supervisors to monitor daily picker performance. Supervisor performance is reviewed every week at a formal meeting with the farm manager and harvesting manager where the performance of each house and harvester is reviewed. These weekly meetings are very important in helping to achieve and to maintain high standards. Figure 2. Claremorris pick rates (lbs/hr)
Managers and supervisors are given the power and means to achieve results. Staff are motivated and are part of a team. Each team strives to perform and to compete with other teams. Discipline is strictly and fairly enforced. CONCLUSION This farm is currently cropping at 850 lbs/tonne and pick rates of 60 lbs/hour. It is our ambition to exceed 900 lbs/tonne and to maintain mushroom quality. Attention to detail at all stages of the production system is the key to the success of the farm. Everybody’s role is clearly defined; targets are clearly set and there are rewards for success. Good up-to-date information on pick rates, yields, etc. is available to managers and supervisors on a daily basis and this drives success.