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In Australia AMGA hold mushroom conference. Upside down are also mushrooms – photos and report

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On 26-28th of October UMDIS Mushroom Information agency visited AMGA2022 Australian Conference. It was already 44th AMGA Conference taking place, the venue – beautiful hotel Crown Plaza in Adelaide, South Australia. We were present as international mushroom media and gave presentation about East European and Central Asian mushroom business, and situation in Ukraine.We are grateful to event organizer – AMGA Australian Mushroom Growers Association and personally to General Manager Leah Bramich for inviting UMDIS, we were the only one foreign mushroom media present, together with Mushroom Link – national Australian media.

Just to remind: AMGA is very famous in the whole world due to the great marketing campaign that smartly and successfully promotes mushrooms in Australia and increases the mushroom consumption. For this campaign leavy from Australian growers is being collected from every kilo of sold mycelium – obligatory as a tax.

Most of the farms in Australia are family-owned. The largest mushroom farm is Costa Mushrooms (not owned by the family), which has more than 50% share of the mushroom market. By the way, yes – names of most of Australian farms are ending with “Mushrooms”. For example: Sa Mushrooms, Bulla Mushrooms, White Prince Mushrooms, Marland Mushrooms, and others. As we have discovered here – Australians are logical people.

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AMGA2022 Conference starts

At first day of AMGA2022 all participants went to see Pure Compost in Port Wakefield – modern compost yard with 5 tunnels.Not as the marketing tip – but in Pure Compost participants have seen a perfect working exhibition of equipment from different suppliers. Bunkerfiller by Hoving Holland, filling cassette by Christiaens, control system by AEM.Our second destination on 26th of October was one of the largest farms of Australia – SA Mushrooms.

– We used to have more than 50 mushroom farms before Covid. But now there are 42-43 farms left, – explains UMDIS Jacqueleen Brown from AMGA association.

SA Mushrooms is family-owned. Farm employs 100 people, each week it produces 60 tons of fresh mushrooms. Here you can see modern rooms, metal shelving, comfortable picking lorries. Packed mushrooms are going via the conveyor. As addition to the “live exhibition during the tour” – in SA Mushrooms we have seen a working Alpie`s e-wash, machine that cleans growing shelves. The most curious and inattentive visitors even got a bit wet.Quite interesting that the farm, leaded by Nick Femia, managed to grow significantly during Covid – when many other farms were even forced to decrease their production. In just six months they opened second growing facility increasing the production by 150%.According to Nick Femia, CEO of SA Mushrooms:

– The normal yield for Australians is between 30 and 35 kg per m2. For to my personal calculation as grower – good yield we have as we collect 34 kg per m2 of compost, – shares Nick with UMDIS.

After the tour followed two days of presentations and exhibition.

In two hotel holes the exhibition was going on. Booths looked like tables – with or without banners and monitors. Those holes were used also for lunches and coffee-breaks – so during pauses of the presentations many participants were there, having opportunity to look around the solutions offered. Near 20 booths were present.Australian mushrooms

Leah Bramich from Australian Mushroom Growers Association made a great presentation about mushroom business in Australia and Association`s activities.

Most of its mushrooms Australia grow in South-East part of the country: 37% in Victoria, 31% in New South Wales, 17% in South Australia. While 9% are in Western Australia, 6% in Queensland and no mushrooms grown in Northern Territory.

Australia produces 68 936 tons of mushrooms a year. As we know, it is the island – enough far away from anyway, except New Zealand (believe us, the way to Australia took us 18 hours in plains) – so it has enough closed mushroom market. Nearly no import (4413 tons of fresh mushrooms are imported annually) and nearly no export (66 tons of mushrooms per year are exported).

97% of Australian mushrooms go to fresh market, so just 3% for processing. From all fresh mushrooms supply – 74% go to retail while 26% – to the food service.

According to Leah Bramich the whole mushroom production in Australia is estimated as 393 million Australian dollars (254 million in American dollars).

The consumption of mushrooms in Australia is really high – 2.78 kg per capita. Good work of AMGA!

-We estimate that 69% of households buy mushrooms, averaging 287 grams in each shop, – tells Leah in her presentation.The Conference

We would definitely say bravo to AMGA2022 Conference`s organizers for keeping the conference neutral in terms of suppliers making presentations. Especially while speaking about design and equipment. Views of the future of mushroom automation and picking processes were presented by two largest world rivals – one presentation of the owner of GTL-Europe Jack Lemmen and the other – of the Manager Sales Department Roland Van Doremaele from Christiaens Group.

-The tilting shelves system was only the beginning of the picking optimization, – tells Jack Lemmen in his presentation. – It is a starting point towards a fully integrated harvesting system. Technological developments such as robotics and artificial intelligence create an array of opportunities to further optimize the harvesting process. Think about packing robots, pointing systems, scanboxes.

No doubt that modern solutions offered by GTL Europe as well as by Christiaens (those companies offer tilting shelves, drawer systems, robots, belts for mushrooms, logistic systems) are very much sophisticated and strongly increase efficiency of the farm. Undoubtedly that is worse to implement such solutions. The only question is of course money – as always. By the way, there was another perfect presentation during event – of Brigitte Hendrix about harvest plan and picking organization. During it one of the very modern Australian growers asked Brigitte:

-How should we motivate pickers to pick more? Maybe good peaceful music in the growing rooms, or more friendly environment there?

-Yeh… Bonus system! – smiled Brigitte, – Because everyone works for money.

-Should we take time to look through the analytics of every picker and speak with them about their speed every week? – asked other grower from the first row near the scene.

-Of course not. You should do it every day! At the end of the day you may ask “Your speed today was lower, why? Did you have a bad day?”. So, you can find out the problems. But last week was last week – picker may not remember why he picked more o less after some days.

There were two presentations of Sylvan: made by Ger Hendriks (experience with different Phases) and of Jorge Calvo (exotic mushrooms). Anne-Marie Arts from The AgriChain Centre Ltd spoke about food safety. Natasha Greenwood – from the Conference`s sponsor – Commonwealth Bank – talked about insurance and safety for growers. In the first day very much friendly and energetic Folkert Moll – Sustainability Manager from Kekkila BVB explained the future of casing soil.Unbelievable is how many different researches are being provided in Australia and also in New Zealand connected to mushrooms. Among the scientists and University` representatives who have done very cognitive presentations were Judy Allan (Pest And Disease Management And Research Services), Dr Warwick Gill (University of Tasmania), Dr Gordon Rogers and Dr. Jenny Ekman (Applied Horticultural Research), Dr. Flavia Fayet-Moore (Nutrition Research Australia), and also Dr Ralph Noble – not from Australia but from Microbiotech Ltd in United Kingdom.

According to the research topics: for example, Dr Michael Kertesz (University Of Sydney) spoke about feeding compost with nitrogen. As mushrooms are an excellent source of protein, containing many of those essential amino acids that humans need, nitrogen inputs to composting should be carefully managed to produce this protein.

-The main nitrogen sources used for Australian mushroom production are poultry manure, synthetic nitrogen, and smaller amounts of other N-containing feedstocks, – explains Dr Kertesz. – There total amount of nitrogen added by Australian composters varies considerably, with overall inputs ranging from 6.5-80 kg N /tonna Phase 1 compost. Only about 12% of this nitrogen is recovered in the mushroom crop as protein. To increase mushroom cap production, most mushroom yards add a slow-release nitrogen supplement to the compost before cropping. We have tested the effect of replacing this treatment with the addition of different nitrogen sources directly into the compost at the pinning stage before each flush. Depending on the N source used, this increased yields by up to 13%, and led to a significant increase in mushroom protein content.

Another researcher Damien Belobrajdic (CSIRO Health and Biosecurity) is investigating mushrooms from the point of having benefits of lowering blood cholesterol as they are high in β-glucan. To compare: usual source of β-glucan oats has 6.9% β-glucan while Pleurotus mushrooms contained 3.2% (Oyster) and 3.7% (Shimeji) – not much less according to Damien Belobrajdic.

-We also evaluated whether these mushroom varieties affected bile acid binding capacity – the primary cholesterol lowering mechanism for β-glucan, – tells – Using an in vitro(laboratory-based) assay, the bile acid binding capacity of A. bisporusmushrooms (29 – 36%) was equivalent to raw oats (36%) whereas Oyster mushrooms had significantly lower (22%) bile acid binding capacity than oats. Thus, this study provides preliminary evidence that the β-glucan from A. bisporus has similar bile acid binding capacity on a per g basis compared to oats and supports further investigation in humans.

As one of the international speakers – Maksym Yenchenko – Representative of Amycel and the Director of UMDIS Mushroom Information Agency told the growers about mushroom business in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia and in particular how mushroom business in Ukraine is going ahead, overcoming the war.Social Events

In the end of the day 26th of October there was Costa Networking Evening. The event took place on the rooftop of one of Adelaide’s most historically significant buildings with a perfect postcard view.In the evening of 27th of October there was The Sylvan ‘Gallery Garden Gala’. This social event started with the perfect guided tour of the gallery, then guests went through to the garden, where they were served by a perfect dinner with South Australian wines and beers from around the world.Just to mention one cute thing about dishes. As I am vegetarian, during the dinner we asked to give us something without meat. That was a very delicious Australian flower – which was served for me by careful Australian chef.Why AMGA in Australia is cool

AMGA Australian Mushroom Growers Association represents the interests of the Australian mushroom industry for over 60-years. The Association is funded by the industry.

So that they have got lots of programs and projects: AMGA manages researches, provides marketing and communication campaigns and much more. Association works with Nutrition Research Australia to educate the food service sector about benefits of mushrooms. With Allied Horticultural Research & Mallsgate – AMGA works on Extension and Adaptation for Food Safety, Quality and risk management – the program includes among others free testing for every levy-paying mushroom farm.

The Association also orders reviews on worldwide fungi-based innovations to inform product development, as well as investigates and provides reviews of ideas in different countries what to use as the alternative materials for casing soil. AMGA deals with digitalization of mushroom industry and even with exploring the scientific evidences that a mushroom is not a vegetable – but a special kingdom.

Thanks to AMGA efforts in Australia there are some very unusual – but we believe very much useful options for growers. There is a special Project Team whom grower can contact if he sees a non-ordinal diesis on his farm. So, the samples will be immediately sent to the correct laboratory for identification and the grower will receive help. Second great option is a special call-line (AMSAFE) to Crisis and Reputation Risk Management for mushroom growers. To avoid the spoiling of great reputation of Australian mushrooms – every grower can report if he thinks he may have some problems that could influence his farm`s or the whole industry`s reputation.AMGA provides great marketing campaign for Australian mushrooms. The budget for marketing for FY22-23 is nearly 130 000 American dollars.

Among the popular marketing projects are:

Mushroom Lovers Club – developing of 4 new mushroom recipes each month that is emailed to 40K+ subscribers and distributed via website and social media.

Mushrooms in School – delivering 800 mushroom kits to schools around the country.

Nutrition & Health PR – engaging AMGA Nutritionist, Jane Freeman for monthly communications to media about mushrooms` health and nutritional benefits.

The Blend – promoting substitution of part of meat mince with mushrooms in different dishes.

Yes, and all this is done by AMGA.UMDIS Mushroom Information Agency provides consultations on mushroom business, technology, selling of mushrooms in Europe, organizes study tours. Contact us for more information: iaumdis@gmail.com, +380935690941 (WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram).

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