"It will take some sanding, but that's what makes it shine," said Jan Janssen, Project Manager at Mushroom Valley. This was at the start of their campaign to position themselves firmly in the mushroom sector. The campaign started in their own backyard, in the town of Horst aan de Maas. It is known worldwide that there are numerous companies affiliated with the mushroom sector within a 50 km radius of this town. Mushroom Valley wants to strengthen this position and raise the mushroom industry to new heights. In order to do so, the competitors in the region will have to work together. So, Mushroom Valley's slogan is "Let's build business together".
Feeding and collaboration in Jan Janssen, Project Manager at Mushroom Valley's sketch
The European mushroom sector's growth is stagnant in the world market at the moment. A growth of 9.2% until 2021 has been predicted. This creates opportunities for companies that offer products and services on the periphery. According to Mushroom Valley, the Netherlands is number one in the area of knowledge and technology. They want to ensure that the country remains in that position. The total value of exporting technology and knowledge in the agri-food sector is estimated to be EUR 15 billion per year, according to the FME, the business organisation for the technology industry.
Offset that against the EUR 85 to 90 billion in agricultural trade, and it is a significant market that is going to keep growing, predicts Marcel van Haren, Agri & Food Cluster Manager at FME: "The added value of technology is far greater that that in agricultural trade. I understand why producers are sometimes wary of exporting knowledge and expertise. As long as the R&D component remains in the Netherlands, their products will keep profiting from this, and they can strengthen their positions."
Participants of the Kick-off meeting were guests at the Museum De Locht in Melderslo, a place where the rich history of mushroom cultivation is preserved.
Mushroom Valley, therefore, wants to invest heavily in training, spreading the knowledge of, and promoting the sector among the youth. The sector is sorely missing specialist training and an experimental farm for mushroom cultivation. Mushroom Valley has also sought out partners in the areas of breeding, raw materials, logistics, technology, production, processing and sales. They found the most partners within the technology field, and there will be a great deal of sanding in this area. Frank Cornelissen of Limbraco Nederland, drives the technology club: "Competition is fierce. I hope we can come a step closer to cooperation because the market is large enough for everyone. Businesses have met twice now. That is extraordinary and I am pleased."
Meiny Prins of Priva receives the book "Mushroom Signals" from the author, Mark den Ouden. The book is a practical guide for the optimal cultivation of mushrooms and will soon be translated into Dutch, Chinese, Polish and Russian
Is mushroom cultivation in the Netherlands on the decline? The numbers support this. The Netherlands is at number four, behind China, the US and, fast-growing, Poland, in the World rankings. The numbers of farms dropped from 1,500 to 120 between the years 2000 and 2012. "In about five years, there will only be about 50 - 70 businesses left", Jan Janssen estimates. "There is, therefore, a need for ambassadors and a positive image." Jan also pointed out the opportunities to be had. For example, in Australia, people consume 3.5 kg of mushrooms per person. In the Netherlands this is 2.5 kg. So, look at how Australia is marketing the product. There is also profit to be made in the diversification of the product (5,000 varieties of which only five are grown commercially). Mushrooms also have the potential to be meat replacements, and their medicinal properties is an untapped market.
Mushroom Valley's Project Manager, Jan Janssen
There is anxiety about losses in the export market. The Netherlands produces 16,5 kg mushrooms per person and eats 2,5 kg of that, themselves. But the trend to be self-sufficient is growing and will, propelled by urbanisation, become far more important. says Meiny Prins of Priva. She was the keynote speaker at Mushroom Valley's kick-off meeting. She envisions a different future, due to major global issues and disruptions. She thinks technology is going to save the world. Businesses and institutions that cannot adapt will fail in the next ten years. Companies must support each other during these drastic changes. This was her message to Mushroom Valley's partners.
Participants at Mushroom Valley's kick-off meeting
The meeting ended with a "Brain & Eat" session. The participants could share their branding, education, innovation, networking, big data and marketing ideas with the moderators. A lot of creative thinking is needed to help the mushroom sector achieve its full potential.
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