Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Growing success

Local mushroom farm thriving

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The province's only commercial mushroom farm has boosted its sales and production by about 25 per cent since adding a second production plant late last year.

Winnipeg-based Loveday Mushroom Farms Ltd. is churning out about 72,576 kilograms of mushrooms a week at its two plants -- a 125,000-square-foot facility that's been operating on Mission Street for the last 63 years, and a new 73,000-square-foot one that opened last November just east of the city.

The new Cedar Lake Road "farm" has a full-time staff of 20 and was needed because the Mission Street plant couldn't keep up with the growing demand for mushrooms.

Company president and general manager Burton Loveday, who is the fourth-generation Loveday to run the family owned business, said the company had been turning down orders because it didn't have the capacity to fill them all.

"We had already lost some business to our competitors -- maybe 10,000 pounds per week," he said, adding the firm's main competition comes from two B.C. firms (Champs Mushrooms and All Seasons Mushroom Farm Inc).

But that's no longer a problem, he said, and shouldn't be in the future because the new plant was designed so it could easily be expanded.

Another benefit of building a second plant is that it enabled Loveday Mushroom Farms to modernize some of its operations and begin producing organically grown mushrooms.

"That's a niche and a need that we wanted to fill," Loveday said.

The difference between organic and non-organic mushrooms is that the organic ones are grown in a certified, pesticide- and fungicide-free facility that is audited annually and uses only certified compounds for cleaning its equipment.

Loveday said while demand for organic mushrooms is still limited -- they account for only about two per cent of the company's sales -- he expects it to grow as health-conscious consumers become more selective about the foods they eat. And when it does, the new plant will be able to meet the increased demand.

Loveday Mushroom Farms has about a dozen large customers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and northwestern Ontario. They include all of the major grocery store chains and regional food distributors.

This is the fourth expansion the company has undertaken in its 78-year history, and the largest in more than 25 years. Loveday wouldn't reveal how much it cost, other than say it was a multi-million-dollar project.

For competitive reasons, he also wouldn't reveal the company's annual sales.

He said the company's growth in sales occurred about seven years ago when its only competition in the province -- the K&G Foods mushroom plant in Portage la Prairie -- closed and it picked up most of its customers.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

 

Loveday Mushroom Farms Ltd.:

Owned and operated since 1932 by Winnipeg's Loveday family.

Operates two mushroom plants or "farms" -- a 125,000-square-foot facility at 556 Mission Ave. in Winnipeg and a 73,000-square-foot one located just east of the city at 23080 Cedar Lake Rd.

Produces 72,576 kilograms of mushrooms a week, compared to 58,968 prior to the expansion.

Produces more mushrooms in two hours than it did in an entire year during its first few years in operation.

Employs 170 people.

Grows five different types of mushrooms: white, oyster, portabella, crimini, shiitaki and enoki.

The company has invested more that $3 million over the last five years on new equipment and plant upgrades to help reduce odours emanating from its Mission Street plant, which produces the composting material for both facilities.

-- Source: Loveday

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 17, 2010 B5

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