Exotic mushrooms are a growth market, as is the organic mushroom market. Koert Pleunis combines the two at his new production company Pleunis Bio Champ. With his new company, the Dutch grower moves just across the Belgian border, where a good location was available.
“We’ve seen the market for exotic mushrooms growing,” Koert says. The mushrooms are marketed under the Tomabel label via the REO Veiling. Shiitake, nameko, eryngii, maitake and oyster mushrooms make up the company’s assortment, which is completely dedicated to the production of exotic mushrooms. “We have one mix with organic chestnut mushrooms that we buy from a colleague.” By working with other growers under the Tomabel label, the complete range can be supplied organically.
Organic market growing
“Demand for organic mushrooms is growing in Belgium,” Koert says. Last year, their range was expanded with mixed packaging, which up till then had never been on supermarket shelves in organic versions. The market for organic mushrooms is growing, although that market is also growing because of the decline of meat consumption. “Mushrooms are part of this trend because they’re a source of protein,” he continues. “I think the mushroom market will only continue growing in coming years.”
Supermarkets increasingly often ask growers to help think about new packaging for the organic mushrooms. “In the past, supermarkets would tell you which packaging they wanted, now they’re asking for suggestions to improve the packaging, and to give the packaging a more organic look,” Koert says.
The nursery has 2,000 square metres and consists of 14 cells of 125 metres. A number of cells have been set up to allow the substrate to grow. “In the past, we bought ripe substrate from substrate manufacturers, but we’ll now let part of the substrate grow on site,” Koert explains. “We’re more flexible because of this, and we’ll be better equipped to respond to market developments.” Besides, the grower will have a better grip on the production this way. Normally, substrate is delivered on one day, but that means all of the mushrooms have to be picked at the same time. “Now we can spread it across a week.”
Compost price more important than cost of labour
The compost for the organic mushrooms also has to be organically certified. “That’s more difficult for the production of white mushrooms, because these are grown on horse manure. It’s easier for us, we grow on wood,” Koert explains. The trees, mostly beech and oak, come from forestry, and are therefore naturally organic. “You could use different types of woods, but beech and oak are the most ideal.”
Although labour costs for the production of white mushrooms can be seen in cost price, that’s different for the production of exotics. The wood substrate is relatively expensive, so this price is reflected in cost price more. “We’ve seen more exotic mushrooms being grown in Poland and the Balkan countries, but the price of substrate is the same for everyone. Because of that, they can’t produce the mushrooms more cheaply. The organic production is often less developed in those countries.”
Pleunis Bio Champ is located at an innovative agricultural site, an industrial estate especially for innovative companies. “We’re innovative because we do everything organically, and we produce special varieties,” Koert says. Water from the nearby river Maas is used for cooling. Besides, a heat grid is being built, which will decrease energy costs even more. “That has benefits, in cooperation with the other companies located here as well.”
Pleunis Bio Champ