Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences researchers have developed a robotic mechanism for mushroom picking and trimming, demonstrating 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 quite important, according to lead author Professor Long He, as the mushroom industry has been facing labor shortages and rising labor costs. Mechanical or robotic picking can help alleviate those problems.
“The mushroom industry in Pennsylvania is producing about two-thirds of the mushrooms grown nationwide and the growers here are having a difficult time finding laborers to handle the harvesting, which is a very labor intensive and difficult job,” He told eandt.theiet.org. “The industry is facing some challenges, so an automated system for harvesting like the one we are working on would be a big help.”
Developing a device to effectively harvest mushrooms was a complex endeavor. The researchers designed a robotic mushroom-picking mechanism that included a picking “end-effector” based on a bending motion; a “4-degree-of-freedom positioning” end-effector for moving the picking end-effector; a mushroom stipe-trimming end-effector, and an electro-pneumatic control system. The researchers fabricated a laboratory-scale prototype to validate the performance of the mechanism.