Following intensive preparation 2009 saw the construction of a new
mushroom farm according to a completely new concept. The five owners had
decided to set up a farm applying new techniques and innovations used for
growing and harvesting. The focus here was on a number of aspects including
improving the picking performance, increasing the productivity of the
compost and energy efficient growing practice.
It is common knowledge that the highest picking performance is obtained
from an upper bed with plenty of room. This knowledge was used and
translated into an idea of creating a bed with a single layer and without any
obstructions to picking.
At the farm run by one of the five owners a growing room was transformed
according to this concept. Trials were performed for several years to investigate
matters such as the best distribution of air, compost management in the
bed, the right picking equipment to use and the filling weight of the compost
in relation to the quality.
A heat pump was installed at the farm. This pump supplies the cooling
required on the farm, while the heat that is released is also used on the farm.
Any surplus heat is extracted using a condenser. In cold periods, when heat
production is insufficient to meet the demand, a steam boiler and a heat
exchanger are used to introduce additional warmth.
To create the best air distribution pattern for the mushrooms the way air
is distributed has been modified. A cloth, which acts as a plenum duct,
is attached to the ceiling. This distributes air through the cloth at low speed
in a homogenous pattern over the entire surface of the beds.
An entirely new technique in mushroom growing is heating and cooling in
the base of the beds. The shelving in the beds incorporates plates which water
flows through. The temperature of this water is regulated by a cooling and
heating circuit. As the energy exchange with the compost is far more direct
the temperature can be managed far more accurately. The compost temperature
fluctuates far less than in conventional farms where the compost temperature is
controlled via the air temperature.
This technique offers a number of advantages:
- effective and accurate control of the compost temperature
- mycelium colonises the casing soil far quicker
- energy saving
- uniform emergence of the mushrooms
- higher productivity per ton of compost
- better spread of pinheads on the beds
- more picking days
The technique can also be applied in existing shelving systems/farms.
The farm has been built on a site where future expansion has been taken into
account. At the moment the farm numbers seven growing rooms, but there is
space for a total of 28 growing rooms.
The farm has also been configured to allow the harvesting and logistic activities
to be automated. As the mushrooms are grown on single layer beds with the
shelving located in an open space with plenty of room for movement developing
and using picking robots will be far simpler.