In addition to the high costs, the mushroom industry is also facing challenges in terms of the labor force, as mushroom harvesting is a difficult and tiring job.
The robotic harvesting system prototype developed by researchers at the Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences could reduce these costs and also solve the labor shortage Pennsylvania’s dealing with.
The machine was designed to pick and trim button mushrooms grown in a shelf system. It uses a suction cup mechanism with adjustable pressure and can both pick the mushrooms as well as trim the ends of their stems.
While mushroom harvesting seems like an easy task, it in fact requires some specific skills professional pickers acquire over time. Researchers conducted 70 picking tests at the Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville, in order to evaluate the robot. The test results proved to be very encouraging, with a 94.2 percent success rate at picking the mushrooms, and a 97 percent one at trimming the stems.
Researchers haven’t offered any details regarding the future of the harvesting robot or when we can expect to see it in production. They are however continuing their work to improve those already impressive figures by further optimizing the form of the suction cup.
The research was supported by the Penn State Mushroom Research Competitive Grants Program.