Smallholder Oyster Mushroom Farming: Farmtopia Developing a Smart Mushroom Farming Solution

Visual for blog describing the advancement of SIP2, Farmtopia's pilot focused on smallholder oyster mushroom farming

The EU-backed project Farmtopia, running from 2023 to 2026, is poised to democratise access to digital technologies, catering particularly to small- and medium-sized farmers in oyster mushroom farming. With a strategic vision to revolutionise agricultural practices across Europe, Farmtopia is set to tackle the currently inadequate domain of Agricultural Digital Solutions (ADSs) while shining a spotlight on regionally significant crops through 9 Sustainable Innovation Pilots. One of those Pilots connects Ireland, Hungary, and Germany through its aim to support small oyster mushroom farmers with a Smart Mushroom Farming Solution that can reduce production costs, improve yield, and increase profitability.

The University College Dublin acts as an ADS provider and a leader in this Pilot that aims to lower production costs by ≥15% while increasing profitability by ≥10%.

Oyster Mushroom Farming Made Profitable

At the moment, small and medium-sized oyster mushroom farms are tackling hurdles posed by limited financial resources and operational constraints that lead to sub-optimal yields. Farmers struggle to optimise production processes, manage inputs efficiently, and – to be even more specific – monitor mushroom yields.

Now, with the development and implementation of innovative Farmtopia solutions underway, this topic is being addressed head-on through the project’s Sustainable Innovation Pilot 2 (SIP2). All with the goal of revolutionising mushroom farming practices via a Smart Mushroom Farming Solution – an integrated solution for real-time monitoring and control of mushroom growth and yield.

Image illustrating Smallholder Oyster Mushroom Farming by showing man with laptop in a room for cultivating oyster mushrooms.

SIP2’s Ambitious Mission

“By providing a user-friendly interface and using sensor networks for environmental monitoring, our Pilot aims to support farmers to make data-driven decisions that help bring up productivity and profitability. We have mapped out challenges and begun the activities, with the said sensor infrastructure already deployed on farms for environmental monitoring. Other planned digital technologies include camera-based technology for real-time mushroom growth monitoring, advanced analytics, a visualisation dashboard, and AI for decision support,” said Dr Dimitrios Argyropoulos, Leader of SIP2 activities on behalf of University College Dublin in Farmtopia.

University College Dublin (UCD) brings its expertise in combining smart sensor solutions and AI (artificial intelligence), while other involved Farmtopia partners, Hungary’s Pilze-Nagy and Germany’s Substratproduktion Kynast -Löcke GmbH provide the testing ground through its connection to farmers. Overall, a network of mushroom growers in Hungary, Germany, and Ireland is involved.

The outcomes expected are: a reduction in production costs by ≥15%; a decrease in energy consumption by ≥10%; and an increase in profitability by ≥10%.

Depiction of the Growth Monitoring Process During the Cultivation Cycle of an Oyster Mushroom Cluster in the scope of Smallholder Oyster Mushroom Farming

Farmtopia’s Open Call for Innovation in 2024

As mentioned, 9 SIPs have been preliminarily identified. Apart from this, the Farmtopia project will begin the further selection of Pilots in its upcoming Farmtopia Open Call, slated for fall 2024. This initiative aims to encourage collaborative development and testing of customised ADSs for small farms, spearheaded by the 9 new Pilots that will be selected through the Call. The Pilots needs to consist of a small farmer and ADS provider. A total funding pool of €900,000, distributed at €100,000 per SIP, has been allocated to support these efforts.

About UCD

Founded in 1854, University College Dublin (UCD) is Ireland’s premier university, hosting over 37,000 students and boasting a research budget exceeding €120 million annually. Ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide, UCD excels in research and innovation. The School of Biosystems and Food Engineering ranks in the top 4 globally according to ASABE, with significant contributions from its faculty, including over 100 peer-reviewed papers annually.

Led by Dr. Dimitrios Argyropoulos, the Digital Tech Lab focuses on applying smart systems in agri-food and bio-resources, uniquely equipped with advanced technologies for digital agriculture research.

Cultivating Community Through Collaboration

Farmtopia’s multi-actor approach aims to bring together different stakeholders along the agricultural value chain. This includes farmers, Agricultural Digital Solutions (ADS) providers, farm advisors, scientists, policymakers, Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS) actors, and various other vital contributors. Their joint effort and contribution will help harvest the best results from synergies between farmers and ADS providers.

The Farmtopia project (GA No.: 101083541) has received funding by the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme. All the information is available on the project’s website, as well as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Youtube.

Democratizing Digital Farming for All – FARMTOPIA’S PATH TO EMPOWERING SMALL FARMS WITH DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES

Project Coordination:

Mr Dionisis Solomos

NEUROPUBLIC AE PLIROFORIKIS
& EPIKOINONION

Methonis 6 Kai
Spiliotopoulou 18545,
PEIRAIAS, Greece

d_solomos@neuropublic.gr

Project Communication:

Dušan Pevac

Foodscale Hub
foodscalehub.com

Narodnog fronta 73,
Novi Sad 21000, Serbia

dusan@foodscalehub.com

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