3 November 1995

Automation for mushrooms

ROBOTS and mushrooms – not a combination which perhaps first comes to mind when discussing the latest technological developments in the computer world.

But when it is known the UKs 118,000t mushroom crop is worth over £150m a year, and each mushroom is picked by hand, one can begin to see that a degree of automation in the harvesting department could be useful.

Image analysis

Silsoe Research Institute has now developed a robotic mushroom harvester which locates mushrooms by image analysis, maps their individual positions, decides whether they are ready for picking and then sets about picking them in an order which will not damage neighbouring mushrooms. It is an operation which is claimed to take a few seconds. Picked mushrooms are then conveyed for trimming and packing.

Commercial development of the harvester is now in the hands of Luton-based Kensal Automation, which is collaborating with the SRI under a licence agreement.

Automated mushroom picking. Developed at Silsoe Research Institute, the system is now heading for commercial reality.