A tour of the Epicurean Food Group’s exotic mushroom facility north of Adelaide has given 50 Hort Connections delegates a taste of the newly established farm’s potential to achieve its goal of reversing Australia’s reliance on imported Oyster, Shiitake, Enoki, Lion’s Mane and other exotic mushrooms.
Since launching at the end of January this year, Epicurean has made significant strides towards bringing its facility up to commercial scale and is already supplying leading independent grocery retailer Drakes Supermarkets with fresh oyster mushrooms at 45 outlets across the state while also field-testing a variety of mushroom burger products in-store to guide product development.
Production has ramped up accordingly, with three grow rooms now in full production. Epicurean is currently working towards SQF certification to allow it to supply retail giants like Coles and Woolworths, which the company has introduced to its innovative and vertically integrated approach to exotic mushroom farming.
To prepare it for commercial success, Epicurean has also bolstered its leadership and management team with the appointment of ex-Cibo Espresso CEO Solomon Farrah as its Chief Operating Officer as well as the appointment of highly experienced Morgan Cook as Chief Financial Officer. It now has a team of three full-time scientists to facilitate its lab work and is building its unique exotic mushroom farm infrastructure under the direction of one of the Australian mushroom industry’s most experienced operations executives Rob Smeets.
As part of the Virginia Farm Tour on Day 1 of Hort Connections, delegates were given a tour of the 4000sqm facility, which is set to expand to 35,000sqm by the end of 2024 if all goes according to co-founder and CEO Ken King’s plans.
Delegates on the tour enjoyed a taste of Epicurean’s exotic mushroom products in a variety of presentations, including mushroom burgers, grilled mushrooms on a baguette, and San Choy Bow made with oyster mushrooms.
Visitors to Epicurean’s farm included Frank Grossi, Managing Director of Supherb Pty Ltd as well as Carmine Calisto, Managing Director of Global Axis Import Solutions. “I was extremely impressed by the size and scale of the facility and its future growth potential,” explained Grossi, who also enjoyed the exotic mushroom products.
Carmine Calisto made a note of the cleanliness of the operation and the fact that the company produces its own mushroom spawn. “I found it very clean and was equally impressed that Epicurean produces its own spawn. I also enjoyed the burgers as they are not just plant-based burgers but mushroom burgers with other vegetables,” added Calisto.
“We have demonstrated our unique approach to exotic mushroom farming to the Hort Connections delegates today, which encompasses a production journey from lab culture to fresh produce as well as mushroom products of the highest quality. We have made significant progress since launch, and as the delegates would have seen today, it’s very realistic to say that we have the potential to be a major national and international supplier of exotic mushrooms and related products in the not-too-distant future,” explained EFG Chief Executive Kenneth King.
In 2019, the market value of plant-based foods worldwide was estimated to be worth US$11.1 billion. This figure is forecast to increase steadily and reach around US$34 billion in 2027 (Statista, 2022).