Profiles of some of our growers
Breffini Mushrooms go from strength to strength with CMP
In 1999 Pat Kiernan started his own mushroom business in County Cavan. He grew up on a farm, and has been involved in agriculture all his life. “During the 1980s I had a job in the compost yard in Foxfield Mushrooms and that’s what piqued my interested in the business,” says Kiernan.
Kiernan has a very strong track record in farming and runs a 150-head dry stock farm, in addition to a very busy mushroom enterprise. In 1999 he won an international award from Teagasc for the quality of his herd. “It was a great achievement and it reflected the effort we put into the quality of our stock,” he says.
Tragedy struck in 2001 when Pat’s prize herd was struck down with tuberculosis. “After spending years building up the business, it was very traumatic to see it all wiped out over night,” he says.
Far from letting it get to him, Kiernan used the experience to diversify and grow his business. “After that I decided to get more seriously into mushroom production and I teamed up with my brother Thomas to form Kildorough Mushrooms.”
Back then the Kiernan brothers had five small tunnels producing 18,000 lbs of mushrooms per week. In the ten years since they have grown massively and now employ 115 staff over 25 tunnels producing a staggering 170,000 lbs of mushrooms each week – enough to feed one in every two households in Ireland.
Pat says that a strong commitment to quality and innovation has helped them to grow over the years. “We have been members of CMP from the start and without their input this business would not have grown to be so successful.”
Over the last few years CMP has consistently invested in technology at Kildorough Mushrooms. “On a practical level CMP have provided OFI for shelving units in the tunnels, and 75 automated picking trolleys, which increased efficiency by 20%,” he says.
Training of staff has also been very important for our development. “Over the last three years we’ve availed of CMP’s training programme to get all of our pickers FETAC trained. This adds a level of skill and expertise to the job that didn’t exist before and hugely adds to the quality of our mushrooms,” he adds.
At present CMP are investing in a new wood chip boiler for Kildorough Mushrooms, which will reduce operating costs even further “Anything that reduces energy costs is very well received, and this new source of sustainable heat will significantly cut our overheads.”
Kiernan is upbeat about the future. “ In little over a decade we’ve gone from a small player to one of the most important producers of mushrooms in Ireland. This has been possible thanks to drive, constant innovation and in no small way the help support and marketing strength of a strong producer organisation in CMP.”
Golden Mushrooms from Tipperary to every plate in Ireland
In 1998, Michael Bergin started in the Mushroom business after 17 years working as a butcher.
“I travelled all over Europe working in the meat industry, and ended up moving home to work in a local factory in Clonmel. I grew up on a small dairy farm and always, wanted to run my own business, he says.
“Back in the late nineties the mushrooms business in Ireland was booming and I, and my wife Marian, took the plunge and invested in a site near the village of Golden in County Tipperary and Golden Mushrooms was born” he adds.
From very humble beginnings Golden Mushrooms has become a very significant producer in the Irish market. “We started with five tunnels producing 4,000 lbs per week and have grown to 18 tunnels and over 100,000 lbs per week – enough to feed four out of every ten Irish consumers each week”, he says.
“Every year since we started we’ve got bigger and better, with the major expansion happening in the last seven years with the addition of ten tunnels over that time”, he adds.
Bergin is very grateful to have the backing of a strong producer group in CMP. “When we started out we were part of a small producer group in Tipperary, and as we grew they did not meet our needs. So we joined CMP and haven’t looked back”, he says.
When asked what are the benefits, they are on the tip of his tongue. Bergin answers, “They give us a very strong voice with the Department of Agriculture and the Government, and as a member we have access to the best training and technical advice available”.
“Because of the scale of their operation, CMP also have great muscle as a purchasing group, which means that packaging and compost is much cheaper for producers like us”, adds Bergin.
Bergin also believes that the hard work of Golden Mushrooms has been rewarded by CMP. “They are a very innovative organisation and have invested heavily in our success. Last year we benefitted from their investment programme when they installed the only compost burning heating system in a mushroom production facility in Europe. This system is particularly clever as it turns our waste, which is a major problem, into an energy source. As a result our fuel bills are down 50% and our waste disposal cost has reduced by thousands”.
In the thirteen years since it was founded, Golden Mushrooms has grown from a pipe dream to one of the most powerful players in the Irish industry and Bergin is upbeat about the future and adds by saying “Quality products and innovation are what have kept us thriving all these years”