Agri-technology investment opportunities in the mushroom industry (MU18002)
What was it all about?
This investment took place during 2019 to explore the current global landscape of agri-technology solutions being used in mushroom growing, with a focus on tools and technologies that may be most advantageous for Australian growers. Implementing agri-technology solutions has to potential to lower production costs, increase yields and improve product quality.
The project team identified more than 150 technologies for potential adaption, of which 10 were prioritised as having the greatest relevance to local growers:
- Mushroom Master by Netafim – applies drip irrigation through pipes laid within the casings, enabling consistent and optimal moisture to the growing substrates.
- Profarm – monitoring sensors are installed across input systems such as the soil, power/electricity, lighting, temperature, irrigation, and the like, and data is collected with real-time tracking to provide growing condition insights to the grower.
- Senseair CO2 sensors – measures carbon dioxide (CO2) levels with sensors, so the grower can then use complementary systems to tailor levels for optimal mushroom growing conditions.
- Autonomous agriculture – a complete system that integrates sensors, cameras, data collection, artificial intelligence and robotics to provide analysis regarding size, colour, disease/defects, and also automate precise picking, sorting and packing.
- Automated mushroom harvester – an automated harvesting system that applies decision support, computer vision and suction picking. Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is pursuing commercialisation pathways for the technology.
- Van den Top Zig Zag shelving and harvesting machine – this shelving creates space for easier manual picking and access for mechanical harvesting with Van den Top harvesting machines that can be integrated with the system.
- Smart Harvest – a visualisation system that guides manual harvesting through projecting colours onto the mushroom bed to provide picking recommendations. Mobile tray systems are required.
- Keep-it® shelf-life indicator – an indicator that shows the actual degradation of packaged fresh food products based on time and temperature. It constantly monitors temperature over time, providing insight to cold chain storage and logistics as well as a more accurate expiry date for consumers.
- Google Glass Enterprise 2 – wearable smart glasses enable faster, smarter and safer businesses with improved quality of outputs. With customised application, there is the potential to reduce manual labour costs via real-time access to instructions, visualisation tools for grading and harvest readiness, and checklists.
- Microsoft HoloLens2 – a mixed reality headset that provides hands-on workers with virtual reality applications for collaboration, real-time access to work processes, -3D visualisation, and training.
With improved understanding of existing and developing technologies, the Australian mushroom industry will be better positioned to capture opportunities and address challenges to achieve sustainable and profitable growth, yield improvement, risk management, and cost reductions across growing, harvesting and processing.
To progress commercial use of available technology in the sector, the project team noted several activities will be important:
- Extension and consultation with industry to share the research results with industry and ensure growers understand the priority technologies.
- Through a demonstration farm, conduct on-farm testing of the technologies and engage with the technology providers, to monitor improvements across metrics and build use-cases for permanent installations.
- Support growers to complete individual cost-benefit analysis assessments of how the priority technologies may be implemented on their farms. Where the technology is not currently developed for mushrooms, consider approach for research collaboration and co-development.
- Consider funding and investment, determining the cost of implementation for a specific farm and ensure appropriate financial arrangements are leveraged.
- Effective implementation, ongoing support and development, to monitor ongoing effectiveness of the technology, support further use and upgrades, and explore complementary technologies.
Read about the project in these articles:
This project was a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Mushroom Fund