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TWI Hellas at Mushroom Days 2023

Wed, 31 May, 2023

TWI Hellas, and fellow partners on the Horizon Europe project SofGrip, were delighted to attend this year’s international exhibition De Champignondagen (Mushroom Days) which took place in Brabanthallen in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands on 10 – 12 May 2023. Now in its 36th edition, the typically tri-annual event welcomed circa 3,000 visitors from numerous countries globally, and hosted some 130 exhibitors from around the world who presented products, services and technologies in farming, preservation, packaging and trade. This year, due to the ‘shroom boom’ of the last couple of years, the focus was mainly on robotic harvesting and automation systems, and it appears that agritech solutions are the ones that could reduce labour costs and boost production, while effectively dealing with the severe labour shortage issue.

Grasping this excellent opportunity, TWI Hellas, under the umbrella of the Horizon Europe project SoftGrip – along with the esteemed consortium partners (Teagasc, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, University of Essex, Mitsui Chemicals, Institute of Communication and Computer Systems) – exhibited at the event in the “Science Island” where all universities and research projects were hosted. There, the project consortium showcased the current research advancements on developing a soft robotic gripper for delicate produce harvesting and, in this case, mushrooms. Project SoftGrip comprises various, significant puzzle parts, from the actual soft gripper and its low-cost, recyclable and self-healing materials to the machine vision system that guides the gripper, machine learning algorithms and intrinsic sensing.

TWI Hellas is responsible for the SoftGrip machine vision system integral to the project's mission. The system's scanning, 3D reconstruction, detection and pose estimation phases can ensure the formation of an accurate harvesting plan, and visual servoing will help the soft gripper pick the mushrooms with higher accuracy. In order to demonstrate the SoftGrip solution, the TWI team took a mini version of the machine vision system to Mushroom Days which showed how can scan, detect and reconstruct mushrooms in 3D. They also produced a promotional video explaining the vision system’s purpose and technological infrastructure.

During the course of the exhibition, attendance at the SoftGrip booth was extremely positive, and it is clear from discussions that the industry is seeking definite solutions to long-existing problems related to the production of mushrooms. Feedback from other companies and researchers, as well as mushroom growers that shared their current concerns and future aspirations, will be highly valuable in influencing the next steps of the SoftGrip project in terms of final results and future commercialisation.

For an in-depth look into the project, be sure to check out the full SoftGrip playlist with videos on all the different project technologies.

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