A lot of farms are afraid that water directly on mushrooms will damage the quality but I disagree with that. Of course it depends on the amounts of water you use and the moment of watering, those details are very important but if managed well the water on the mushrooms will give them a smooth cap and some extra weight. What we need to keep in mind is that the moment of watering is very important. Wait for watering on the 1st flush until you see compost activity. If there is no rise in compost temperature wait with water until there is. Normally you see the activity starting on the first picking day when you pick about 0.5 to 1 kg/m2. I always like to water on that first picking day, where the compost just starts to get activity, and let the mushrooms dry naturally, with no force of the fan but with fresh air. What happens is that when you run higher fan speeds after the watering, the fresh air damper will close. You can put a drying program where you lower the CO2 a bit but still the higher fan speed will not increase the amount of fresh air that is needed to dry the mushrooms.
Instead dry the mushrooms naturally and without too much help from the fan speed. Speeding up the fan a lot is not sufficient and is actually working the other way around. When the room is watered the RH is high so the climate system will automatically start drying the room. Leave the fan speed the same so some extra fresh air will come in to do the drying process. Make sure to remove all the access water from the floor directly after watering, if not the process will dry the floor first and the mushrooms will stay wet longer. Make sure you watch your outside conditions to guide this process, with very high humilities you have to use a drying program or consider not too water.
If you look at this in a glance one might say: the filling has not that much to do with picking. But it is more relevant than many people think. Before the start of picking a first flush, the picking manager makes a plan. When is the room starting? Do I have to pick clusters or pre-runners? How many pickers do I need in this room during lets say 5 days of picking? And an important one, what is the activity of the room? This I need to interact on the growing from day 2 of picking. And this is where the filling of the room comes into the story.
Before the start of picking the picking manager and the grower have a talk about this room. This should start from the moment pins grow out, so about 4 days before the start of picking that room. The picking manager has knowledge about the expected sales that week, the desired size of the mushrooms and the number of pickers available. The grower has knowledge of the room regarding the activity of the compost, the strain and the number of pins developing. An even room is easy to evaluate but if the filling was uneven or two different types of compost were used, than the story gets a bit more difficult. The growing room will develop uneven and one side might start earlier. One side might give more mushrooms and this means that the picking is not the same on all shelves. And with the tendency to build bigger rooms, more trucks of compost are filled in a room. And every truckload of compost can be a bit different. Sometimes in structure, sometimes in moisture content and even in quantity. And every time the operator of the combine filling machine has the desire to change the settings on the machine. Often his order is to get the compost filled. All shelves full and no compost returning to the compost yard or no compost dumped. But by changing the settings the temperature development of the compost will change too. 2 cm deeper fill can result in a difference of a day for the flush to start. It will also have an effect on the number of mushrooms growing out. And during the flush one side will grow faster than the other.
So the general instruction at filling should be not to make any changes. Better a bit of compost left over or a part of the shelves not being filled. An even better way is to fill out of two trucks in one go with a cross conveyor. That way the compost out of two trucks is mixed and differences are ruled out. Another method is to do a mixed fill of the truck at the compost yard. So fill a layer, fill another layer in another truck and then let the trucks circulate. Of course the best possible way is to do the mixed filling of the truck, together with the combined unloading at filling. The growing will be a lot easier then. The grower has a better chance to produce the number of mushrooms required and the picking can be a lot more accurate.
Researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences have developed a robotic mechanism for mushroom picking and trimming and demonstrated its effectiveness for the automated harvesting of button mushrooms.
In a new study, the prototype, which is designed to be integrated with a machine vision system, showed that it is capable of both picking and trimming mushrooms growing in a shelf system.
The research is consequential, according to lead author Professor Long He, because the mushroom industry has been facing labour shortages and rising labour costs. Mechanical or robotic picking can help alleviate those problems.