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IE: Teagasc hosted a mushroom automation seminar

The event focused on mushroom harvesting automation technologies. Labour is a very significant cost of production. All mushrooms produced in Ireland are Hand-harvested as it is the only way to deliver the high quality produce that is demanded at the moment. Labour is a key input in the mushroom sector and represents on average 44% of total input costs. Recruiting and retaining staff is the major challenge facing mushroom growers all over the world. This Teagasc event offered Irish mushroom producers the opportunity to learn about the ground-breaking automation systems from the world's top mushroom automation companies that may help to solve the labour issue.

Speaking at the opening of the event, Head of the Horticulture Development Department in Teagasc, Dermot Callaghan stated: "Historically labour availability and cost have always dictated the pace of development in the mushroom sector in Ireland. The potential that automation and robotic picking holds for the sustainability of the sector in the future cannot be overstated. Combining this with data driven decision making in the production system, I am excited to see the new heights the Irish mushroom industry can go to in the years to come".

Five of the leading mushroom harvesting automation companies presented their systems followed by a panel discussion:

  • Alan Doake, Managing Director of Axis Technology (Northern Ireland)
  • Jan-Emiel Tack, Director of TLT Automation (Belgium)
  • Jack Lemmen, Director of GTL Europe (Netherlands)
  • Wim Van Vugt, Sales Manager of Christiaens Group (Netherlands)
  • Sean O'Connor, CEO of 4AG Robotics

The seminar also included a session on disseminating the findings of 'SoftGrip'( an EU-funded project consortium that is led by Associate Professor Matteo Cianchetti of the Biorobotics Institute at SSSA in Pisa, Italy. Helen Grogan, mushroom researcher at Teagasc said; "major technological advances are being made in the robotics world and this project aimed to develop a state of the art 'soft' robotic gripper for the automated harvesting of delicate produce, such as mushrooms. Soft robotics uses technologies that focus on imitating living organisms in terms of flexibility and dexterity, such as the human hand.''

Teagasc are project partners along with SSSA (Italy), ICCS-NTUA and TWI (Greece), UESS (UK) and Mitsui (Germany).

Donal Gernon, Teagasc Mushroom Advisor said: "Automation of mushroom harvesting is not luxury, in the near future it's going to be necessary for your business to survive and thrive. Although there are still further development required in mushroom automation, I firmly believe that these companies are world leaders in mushroom harvesting automation and will be the ones to bring the mushroom industry to the next level. Investing in some of these systems will pave the way for your long-term success.''


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