A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
Many people like to pick mushrooms in the forest. But not everyone knows how they are grown near Brest.
This story is about «an enterprise» for growing mushrooms «BONSHE», which is located in the Brest Free Economic Zone «Брест» (airport area).
Looking ahead, we can say that there’s no better mushroom place anywhere in Belarus, and even in the whole of CIS.
France was the first country in Europe to successfully attempt mushroom cultivation back in the XVI century. Dishes made of mushrooms were considered delicacies for wealthy people. These days, Holland is recognized as the technological leader in the production of mushrooms in Europe. Therefore, it was with the use of Dutch developments that effective production was organized in the city on Bug.
«BONSHE was» the first company to adapt the western mushroom-growing project to the Belarusian realities. BONSHE JLLC «» was founded on September 8, 2004. In March 2009, the first 6 chambers for growing mushrooms were put into operation, and already in July 2009, its own production of mushrooms began.
The operating company capacity averages about 950 tons of mushrooms per month. They are simultaneously grown in 48 chambers (workshops). And the task is to significantly increase the volume. More than 90 percent of the manufactured products are exported.
WHY DOES THE TECHNOLOGIST SNIFFS THE AIR?
A long time ago, French peasants noticed that mushrooms grow well in the holes left by horse hooves, where manure got into. Over time, this served as the impetus to cultivate their growing. As was noted already, modern production is based on Dutch technology and European raw materials.
Vyacheslav Turbin, he director of the BONCHE LLC, revealed secrets that you hardly knew when looking at cute white hats.
So, it all starts with the purchase of pasteurized substrate (compost) with mushroom mycelium. Compost consists of a specially prepared mixture of manure and straw. It is being prepared for more than 40 days at a specialized plant in Poland. Before loading it into a vehicle, it is seeded with mycelium. The brought raw materials are unloaded quickly, with the help of special equipment, because every extra hour spent in the back of a vehicle leads to the mycelium’s death. The compost is topped with a layer of peat mixture (cover soil). The resulting «cake» is poured abundantly with water. This kind of work can be done by 5-6 people in a few hours.
Next, a technologist (one of the four) takes over. And in the next 16-18 days, «he is the Lord and the Master» of the production site. For he controls the microclimate parameters that directly affect the growth and cultivation of mushrooms. First of all, these are temperature and humidity. He even periodically «sniffs» the air in the room. Why?
Compost, at a certain stage of decay, releases nitrogen-containing compounds that have a specific odor. And this «aroma» indicates a certain maturity of the compost. Of course, the general parameters are controlled through special computer equipment. For this purpose, dozens of compact measuring devices are installed in each of the 48 chambers (workshops). With the help of a computer, the microclimate in each chamber can be monitored and even managed remotely, at any distance, but daily personal control by technologists in each chamber is mandatory.
THE FIRST AND SECOND "WAVE" OF THE HARVEST
On the 16-18th day, the first mushrooms appear on the compost poured into the chambers. And the teams begin to collect them. The pace of work is increasing every day. It has been well said — pop up like mushrooms after a spring rain (watering the compost)… And as soon as the mushrooms appear, they must be «thinned out», immediately so that they do not slow down the growth of fellow neighbors. Otherwise, you will get a large mushroom carpet, which is impossible to cope with without loss of quality.
– This stage is perhaps the most important and critical, – emphasizes Vyacheslav Turbin, the director of BONCHE JLLC «БОНШЕ» Вячеслав Турбин uring a tour of the enterprise. – Well done thinning gives good results in the future. Sometimes this is a difficult but very productive part of the job.
The next five days are the most stressful for the pickers. If a mushroom outgrows, both the employee and the enterprise lose. In less than a week, «the «mushroom picker»» collects 60 percent of the harvest on the supervised site. Then there is a pause, when the mushrooms practically do not grow. But the break lasts only… one day. Then the second wave begins. It is smaller than the previous one for the harvest, but longer by a day or two. Then the next step, and the next. There may be several such «waves». BONSHE work with two «waves».There may be several such «waves,». BONSHE«» work with two «waves». Then the chamber is washed, treated with hot steam, and completely disinfected. Ultimately, the cycle takes 32-35 days.
The working time is ticking away. Soon, another compost is loaded into the same place, and a new cycle begins. And the production process continues. This is happenning in all 48 chambers.
… We entered the the sancta sanctorum of the company to see how the employees work in the «greenhouse» shops. By the way, they use special lightweight lifts. Because the racks are built in several «floors». The work requires certain skills and hand motility. But in the end we get the mushrooms that are awesome. They are weighed, put straight in boxes and sent to the warehouse. They are ready for sale.
BONSHE provides transportation for its workers (both to the enterprise and from work). There are several comfortable buses for this. And they plan to buy more. Mushroom growers are brought not only from Brest, but also from nearby regional centers — Zhabinka, Kobrin, Malorita, Pruzhany. In total, the company employs 20 teams, about 20 people each. Their work ends at different times. There is a schedule, but it can be adjusted. Two or three years ago, night harvesting was practiced, but now the company has gone away from this, and even at the most intense time, the working day ends no later than 21 PM. But on «easy» days between the «waves» the mushroom grower’s working day does not exceed two hours. And it ends before eleven AM.
BUILDING A NEW FUTURE
BONSHE JLLC strives to increase production volumes every year. In 2018, the fourth production building of the enterprise was fully loaded. The area allotted for mushrooms amounted to 32.2 thousand square meters. And this is far from the limit. In 2019, BONSHE JLLC plans to build the fifth production building (with a long-term plan for the construction of two more). So the capacity for the mushroom production will increase by almost 30 percent in 2019. And this is by no means all.
The French for «mushroom» is «champignon». This word has long been «ours.» Likewise, European cuisine is striving for unification. So if you haven’t tasted the champignons — it’s time!
WHAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT MUSHROOMS
BELOW STANDARD, BUT SAME DELICIOUS
The working day at BONSHE in the «rush time» of picking mushrooms can reach twelve hours. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Leave it — the mushrooms will outgrow and become below standard. The cap begins to «come off» from the leg, and the film bursts from below. Such a mushroom is edible and fresh, just as tasty and healthy. But its value is falling. In general, it is good for the customer, but not very good for the employee and the company. That is why the first-class «cool» mushroom is «held high in the esteem». As such, it is appreciated all over the world.
FOUR MUSHROOMS IN ONE GRIP!
The job of a mushroom grower requires skill and «steel» hand motor skills, as mentioned above. The mushrooms are not cut, but twisted by reciprocating movements. Moreover, an experienced grower takes more than one mushroom, but grabs several of them between all fingers in turn. And only then he cuts off the leg and puts it in the box. As a result, he puts four mushrooms in the basket at once with every movement of the hand! However, this requires lengthy training, because the mushroom is very sensitive to damage, and strong pressure will leave a characteristic fingerprint on the cap. By the way, long nails are forbidden for mushroom pickers. Because even the soft movements of women’s hands with long nails leave unnecessary marks on the mushroom caps.
Higher education is not needed here, but it takes months of hard work to grow a good mushroom grower. More recently, men have also been successfully picking mushrooms at BONSHE. There are also champions here. They make a comfortable living — up to 2 thousand BYN a month and even more. But remember — no pains, no gains. The mushroom grower’s earnings depend on the amount of the harvested crop.
FUNGUS GNATS IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY
The biggest disaster that the company fights against is fungal diseases. Dry and wet rot, trichoderma (mold), mushroom gnats can significantly reduce the mushroom yield. Even with thorough disinfection, the mushroom gnat can “pack up their bags and move” to the next chamber. And it can go on and on. Unless you take proper action. Therefore, the tightness of chambers where mushrooms are grown is another very important issue. “We do not have a spaceship here, but still …” — the leader jokes.
It should be noted that fungal diseases present no danger for humans. But experts confirm, that any artificially bred culture loses in competition with a wild one. Therefore, special attention is paid to cleanliness and order at BONSHE. An important element is the cleaning and disinfection of corridors in workshops and throughout production site. The floors are washed daily and with the addition of hydrogen peroxide. Even door handles are treated with this solution.
Overalls are washed every day, disposable gloves are changed several times per shift. If you go out into the corridor, you must put on other pair after that. It is especially dangerous to bring spores of microorganisms harmful to fungi into the chamber. Especially at an early stage of crop cultivation … It is impossible to completely avoid fungal diseases. But it is quite possible to minimize the number of cases and their consequences. Much attention is paid to this aspect of work.
Prepared by Sergey MOSCHIK
PHOTO: Nikolay CHEBERKUS