The goals of Europe's Bioschamp project (which brings together five research technology centers, three large companies, and four SMEs from the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom among other countries, including the Fertinagro Biotech company from Teruel) are to find an alternative, of biological origin, to fungicides and pesticides in order to combat diseases that affect mushrooms, as well as an alternative sustainable substrate and biostimulant.
Herminia de la Varga, this project's technical manager and head of Research Projects at Fertinagro Biotech, said this initiative comes at a time when "these substances of chemical origin are going to disappear due to changes in European regulations. Currently, there is only one product of biological origin," she said.
"The substrate on which these mushrooms are grown has a peat base. It isn't banned at the moment, but it is a component of fossil origin that will also be regulated because it is a limited resource," she added. Therefore, it is necessary to find a substrate that allows maintaining a certain humidity constantly, that is rich in fulvic and humic acids, as well as organic matter (the food of the mushroom), and that has enough fluffiness for the mycelia to grow correctly.
The role of Fertinagro Biotech within this project will consist of optimizing the production on an industrial scale of the biostimulant resulting from the laboratory tests.
A key industry in Europe
The mushroom industry plays a key role in the agri-food sector in the European Union. Nutritionally, it provides plant alternatives to animal proteins. It is a source of vitamin D and selenium, and it's low in calories.
Economically, according to data from 2017, it is valued at 33,000 million euro in the EU and projections indicate that it will reach 66.8 billion euro in 2026. The Netherlands is the main European producer. In Spain, it is a prominent crop in La Rioja and Cuenca. However, the growing demand for mushrooms by consumers may make it an alternative in other areas.