Supermarkets customers generally choose the cheapest mushrooms. Adding value to a punnet of mushrooms can, therefore, make all the difference in this market. Besides powders, meat replacers, organic, and convenience, there is a recent, new development - adding extra vitamins to mushrooms.
Vitamin D booster entrance
In just one second, vitamin D can be added to a mushroom. This is a vitamin that is usually not found in cultivated mushrooms. “Mushrooms naturally contain ergosterol,” says Ger van Knippenberg of the Dutch company, Arco Solutions. “That substance is converted into vitamin D, by a UV light source. We now have a machine that activates this vitamin D. It also uses UV light or LED lighting. We have noticed there is a market trend in which people want to eat healthier. These additional vitamins can contribute to this trend.”
Placing these mushrooms under lights activates the vitamin D already found in mushrooms, so it is not merely an added substance. “Wild mushrooms contain vitamin D because of their exposure to sunlight,” says Arco Solutions’ Jordy van der Sterren. “There is, however, too little artificial light in a mushroom nursery room to wake up this vitamin D. What we, therefore, do with this machine is mimic the natural process that occurs in mushrooms.”
The vitamin D booster weighing line
“Vitamin D is, of course, a nice added value,” adds Ger. “There are also very few foods that contain vitamin D and the level people in Europe ingest, is low. You get a little more in the summer, but this certainly decreases in autumn and winter. With the current health trend, we see we have found a hot item on the market.”
To activate the mushrooms’ vitamin D, the machine emits a short, intense flash of light. “The light section in the machine where the mushrooms get this boost is well-protected,” says Ger. “Let me tell you, if you are exposed to this light for five minutes, you will not feel well, later on. We offer two kinds of lighting with this machine - UV or LED. UV lights have been used to activate vitamin D for some time now. They, however, have only one setting. With LED light, it is possible to regulate the light’s intensity. So, you have control over the amount of vitamin D that can be activated in a mushroom.”
The vitamin D booster with light section opened
This machine can be connected to Arco’s mushroom weighing and packaging line (see box). “We are not only able to activate vitamin D in fresh mushrooms but also if they are processed into, for example, mushroom powder,” explains Ger. Arco does not only have packing lines in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. “We have weighing and packing lines all over the world; at the large mushrooms processors in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Russia,” says Jordy.
“Demand for this vitamin D machine is currently mostly from Europe,” says Ger. “However, the health hype is also a thing in Northern America. So, I expect they will also soon want to market mushrooms with added vitamin D there. We play an active role in this added value, and we tell our clients about it. The markets outside of Europe are not yet at the forefront of these developments. We do, however, see possibilities there.”(TD)
Close-up weighing line
The sun is the most well-known source of vitamin D. Half an hour outside, in the sun, provides your entire daily requirement of this vitamin. Pregnant women and young children, however, need extra vitamin D. Sun exposure is also less effective in older people and those with a darker skin tone. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and is beneficial for your immune system and muscle development. Mushrooms that have been exposed to the sun contain the plantlike variation of vitamin D - vitamin D2. Vitamin D3 is the animal variation that is found mostly in fatty fish. The body more readily absorbs this variation. Both vitamin D2 and D3 are often added to margarine. Vitamin D is absorbed even better if the meal contains enough fats. So, fry those mushrooms!
More or fewer mushrooms
Arco has developed a weighing and packaging line for the mushroom sector. To limit the give-away weight, Arco has a weighing line with an LED indicator. This light shows how far a punnet of mushrooms is under the target weight. “A single operator can, therefore, process no less than 100 packs per minute,” says Jordy. “That brings an increase in efficiency to a company. With a few small changes, the machine can also be used to weigh soft fruit.”
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