Mushroom cultivation is big business and growing. This year output is expected to be around USD 16 billion, reaching $20 billion in 2025. Currently, it is a labour-intensive business with staffing accounting for around a third of production costs, mostly pickers working inside the growing sheds, where the atmosphere is good for mushrooms but not ideal for people, working in cramped conditions between the racks of growing trays, with awkward, repetitive actions. All of that is about to change with a new generation of mushroom production facilities, developed by Panbo Systems, using robotics and hi-tech control systems to move pickers out of the growing areas and increasing their productivity by over 300 per cent. At the heart of the new systems controlling the environment and monitoring mushroom growth is J2 Innovations’ FIN Framework.
Panbo Systems BV based in Beringe Netherlands has been involved in the mushroom business since it was founded in 1988, evolving from plant component manufacture to turnkey design and build projects to create mushroom farms across the world. Director, Niels Huibers, who joined the family business ten years ago, explains “We are on the threshold of creating a new approach to mushroom production. Partnering with major retail and trading companies which are seeking to have their own production facilities, we now see typical projects as 40 million euros investments in 60 to 100 growing rooms, or 36,000 to 60,000 square metres of growing surface, where no humans will enter the growing areas except for cleaning, Using cameras to monitor growth and sophisticated robot vehicles that lift trays in and out of the growing racks for filling, picking and emptying. This makes the growing areas and picking very significantly more efficient with higher yields and lower costs.”
The growing rooms need to have the temperature, humidity and CO2 gas concentrations adjusted during different stages of the growing cycle. This is handled by cameras monitoring the mushroom growth and controllers operating the HVAC systems. Both feed into the FIN Framework software, which manages the atmosphere adjustments, databases and visualization. Niels Huibers, again. “We have worked with the FIN products for many years and the current models are reliable, adaptable, easy to program to suit our requirements and able to work with any controllers we specify for ventilation/climate control sensors, dampers and camera networks in each room.”