As Agro-Projects builds and equips mushroom farms and compost yards around the world – we have over 80 completed investments – our specialists have shared some construction things you should know when setting up a mushroom farm. Below you find five most popular questions we receive from those who want to build a mushroom farm.
What is the most expensive part of building a mushroom farm?
Mushroom farm requires a house, then equipment and machinery. The necessary equipment needed are growing shelves, picking lorries, a set of filling and emptying machines, irrigation system, special doors and gates, ventilation and climatic installation including air handling units, pipe installation, cooling unit, boilers, control computers and other systems and equipment.
Technological equipment together with machines can reach up to 65% of the entire investment or even more depending on engineering solutions. The rest of the investment is building a facility, organizing the plot land, construction of access roads if needed. A mushroom farm is not an ordinary farm where the main task is to build walls and roof – in mushroom business that is just the beginning. Even though when you look at the drone shots of modern mushroom farms they just look like a large warehouse – there is a lot of expensive equipment inside.
For the future growing process, the largest expanses the investor is going to have are compost, salaries and energy (mainly electricity and gas). Therefore, already at the design stage, you should discuss with your general contractor how to make your future building as energy efficient as possible and how to replace manual labor with the already advanced machinery used in the industry.
How to turn an old factory or store into a mushroom farm?
If the investor wants to rebuild the already existing facility – for example a vegetable store into a mushroom farm – sometimes it is cheaper than building it from scratch. It must be checked whether it is possible to install mushroom growing equipment on that facility. When we have an open spaced large hall with no technological structure there, that means we must divide this hall into mushroom growing rooms, build a new support structure, install air handling units, distribution of technological pipelines and other equipment which is usually integrated into the farm structures. Remember that mushroom farm requires a large amount of water, and sewage system should be organized for every growing room as well as technological corridor and external area. In such case you need to organize it from the very beginning, and in already built facility it seems to be much more complicated.
Existing buildings usually do not have an external concrete floor in front of future growing rooms and sometime there is no space to make it what will surely complicate the compost filling and emptying process.
If internal structures and walls exist, usually they make the situation more difficult. In order to have an equal number of mushrooms picked from the growing rooms – they must be same size and their quantity must be in accordance with growing cycle. You could leave the growing rooms as they are – but special engineering must be required. For example, growing shelves and picking trolleys should be adjusted to new rooms. Typically, standard existing structures are narrower than they should be in order to work comfortably in them. That will surely cause inconvenience during picking. Uneven dimensions of the rooms will make cultivation a challenge in terms of organizing teams of employees, because for each cultivation room, a different number of pickers will be needed. The room will also differ in terms of the compost used, as well as the regularity of delivery. Since the decision to transform an existing facility into a mushroom farm is definitely not an easy one, we help our clients estimate all costs. We take into account the efficiency of such a mushroom farm in terms of return on investment, convenience of operation and we advise on the right choice.
What should be the height of a mushroom growing room?
First thing we would like to know from the Investor is how many mushrooms he wants to produce. Based on this, we are able to define what equipment will be needed, as well as what dimensions the growing rooms should have. Often it is the choice of cultivation racks that determines the height of the room. Standard modern shelving consists of 5 to 7 shelves. This five-shelf product is usually less cost-effective since it will come out cheaper to build a slightly taller facility than to build new rooms for lower racks.
The best solution seems to be the growing shelvings with 6 shelves – the standard height of the growing room vary between 4.50-4.80 meters. It is not always advisable to make the room higher, as the space from the top shelf to the ceiling should not be too high because this will affect air circulation and cause the uneven mushrooms growth. Also, the distance cannot be too small due to air ducts located under the ceiling that should be making mushroom picking from the upper beds more comfortable. This space should be 1-1.3 meters long.
How to predict market development when setting up a mushroom farm?
When investor receives funding that is stretched over time, the construction takes more time while the market keeps changing. Therefore, the general contractor deals with many changes right before and during construction when the layout of rooms cannot be easily changed. That’s the reason why it is so crucial to find a general contractor who has experience in making many changes, both before and during construction. It is important to help the developer anticipate changes in the market and be able to make any changes during construction.
For example, Agro-Projects recommends investors, even if they do not plan to pack their products, leave a free room or space for setting up a packaging line or for a cutting machine. Why? Because you never know what future know what future holds, you may meet a big client who would like to buy your mushrooms in 250 grams trays instead of baskets That comes from our knowledge about the market – packed mushrooms are being sold at higher prices and sometimes it is a main condition to make a deal with big retailer. It will be a pity not to have technical opportunity to organize a packaging shop when it turns out to be an economically advantageous step.
Moreover, there are a lot of minor changes that may occur during the building stage like changing the designation of rooms, additional division of a larger room into smaller ones, or in a warehouse separating a section for storing cardboard for eco-friendly boxes, which you might want, for example, after doing a market analysis where you find out that local potential customers are willing to pay more for products with eco-friendly packaging. You should definitely discuss all these changes with your general contractor.
What cannot be saved on when setting up a mushroom farm?
The most common mistake that reduces the efficiency of mushroom farms once they start up is saving on things that are not worth saving on. For example, purchasing a head filling machine from an unknown manufacturer or making a growing shelving by yourself.
There are many cost-saving options that can still be used. You can set up tunnels for mushroom production instead of setting up growing rooms, you can make thinner walls, you can install a cheaper control system. All the solutions must be deeply engineered because not every cost-saving option can be applied. It depends on many factors which Agro-Projects analyses together with the customer to finally make the best choice.
If you are not familiar with mushroom industry, you should definitely choose a general contractor that has all the knowledge about mushroom production. That it something you just cannot save on.
Agro-Projects has been asked many times to advise investors who had already started the construction with companies that specialized in building different facilities and had no experience in mushroom industry.
The knowledge was shared by our Projects Manager Andrzej Bielicz.
Polish company Agro-Projects is one of the largest companies in Europe which comprehensively builds mushroom farms and produces and supplies both machinery and equipment for them. The company has more than 80 completed projects worldwide.