The Costa Group is one of Australia’s leading growers and suppliers of fresh produce. The company wanted to improve the process of onboarding its mushroom harvesters. It takes several months for a newcomer to pick mushrooms at the expected rate of 27kg an hour, and almost half of Costa’s trainees weren’t making it through the first six weeks of training.
Costa partnered with Melbourne Polytechnic, Liminal VR and Food and Fibre Gippsland to improve the process. Melbourne Polytechnic project-managed the partnership, while Liminal VR developed virtual reality software to simulate mushroom picking. Trainees wear a headset and knuckle dusters and become familiar with the skill and challenges of mushroom harvesting in a VR world, before they set foot in a field. This helps Costa assess its trainees more quickly and allows trainees to improve their skills at a faster rate.
The software is now used at Costa for onboarding and to help employees become more efficient. Melbourne Polytechnic is currently developing a suite of onboarding programs and harvesting units of competency which will end up in nationally recognised courses. Once launched, Costa plans to enrol employees in Melbourne Polytechnic courses so that they can become accredited harvesters. Melbourne Polytechnic is seeing how this software could be adopted by other agricultural areas and we will develop further efficiency training programs for other organisations.