Developing flexible automation for mushroom harvesting (Agaricus bisporus) : innovation report
Rowley, James Henry (2009) Developing flexible automation for mushroom harvesting (Agaricus bisporus) : innovation report. EngD thesis, University of Warwick.
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Official URL: http://webcat.warwick.ac.uk/record=b2521785~S15
A framework for analysing crop processes and their suitability to automation was
developed in order to address the challenges of labour costs and skills availability that
UK growers face. Harvesting was found to be the function of greatest potential labour
resource savings. The framework compared those crops with the highest Home
Production Marketed value, in terms of target detection, target removal, seasonality and
environmental factors. Agaricus bisporus (common mushroom) was the crop that was
identified as the best candidate for automation.
Therefore a laboratory demonstration of a robot arm was designed and developed and
experiments conducted showed that the cycle time to pick and place three mushrooms
was 20 seconds (compared to a typical human pick rate of 12 seconds (HDC 1996)).
The model could in theory, be operated 24 hours a day, giving a picking strategy
advantage over a current single day-shift operation. The pick efficiency rate (i.e.
success rate) was found to be 69% and if all biological factors are eliminated (e.g.
elimination of air conditioning which dried out compost and fruiting bodies), the results
suggest a 92% pick success rate is theoretically feasible using the model within
optimum environmental conditions. Additionally, 85% of these mushrooms
successfully picked had no bruising damage; this results in an overall 78.2% success
rate, or 21.8% scrap rate, compared to a 5-10% scrap rate produced by human pickers
(Noble 2004), (Komatsu 2005), (Howard 2007).
The performance of the robotic harvester was tested within a simulated commercial
environment using a discrete event simulation of a UK farm. Results of experiments
conducted to compare the performance of a robotic harvesting operation to the current
labour intensive operation show that the system would require between 31 and 34 robot
harvesters to replace the current 28 humans.
The initial investment cost for the proposed fully automated harvesting and growing
system, using an Automated Storage and Retrieval System, for the UK farm was found
to be from £3.56-3.71m. The payback period for the replacement of the 28 Flexible
Full Time Harvesters currently employed was found to be 8 years. The Internal Rate of
Return (IRR) was found to be 4%. If the existing growing sheds and tray transport
system at the UK farm was kept in service and just the automated harvesting unit was
employed, the payback period reduced to 5.5 years and the IRR was found to be 10.5%.
The financial analysis provides unimpressive results; however, limitations of these
traditional financial appraisal methods were identified from this work. The nonfinancial
benefits provide a more compelling reason to go ahead with the proposed
solution as the persistent labour supply and direct labour cost issues are currently
forcing the UK growers out of business.
This work provides growers with a reliable automated harvesting solution and the
ability to determine the suitability of its application within their own operations.
|Item Type:||Thesis or Dissertation (EngD)|
|Subjects:||S Agriculture > SB Plant culture
T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Cultivated mushroom -- Harvesting -- Machinery, Robots, Industrial|
|Official Date:||June 2009|
|Institution:||University of Warwick|
|Theses Department:||School of Engineering|
|Supervisor(s)/Advisor:||Young, Ken W.|
|Extent:||ix, 98 leaves : ill., charts|
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