A productive process based on making use of the role of mushrooms in the life cycle as decomposers.
In Castilla-La Mancha there is an agricultural-based economy specializing in wine production, cereals, olives, etc. In the 70s, people looked for complementary activities to reinforce the economy. Connected to that, in Villamalea the production of mushrooms was developed, using straw from cereal production and locally available chicken manure.
From the end of the 90s until the present day, this complementary activity has created a steady business based on mushrooms, linked to a logistics and distribution network to supply the supermarkets and retailers of the country. In consequence, and due to the specialization of the business and the cooperation between the different companies, Villamalea has substantially improved the local economy.
The mushrooms are one of the main agents responsible for decomposing the dead organic material. This practice takes advantage of the ability of mushrooms to make use of secondary products obtained from agriculture and farming (straw, chicken manure) which create a specific compost ready to produce mushrooms. At the ends of the growing period, mushrooms have not used up all the nutrients of the substrate. For this reason, this material is ideal for adding to the fields as fertilizer, because it improves the water holding capacity of the soil. It is rich in nitrogen, humus, and other minerals and nutrients and it does not contain heavy metals or the seeds of competitor grass.
The company set up as an agricultural cooperative was recognized as an organization of fruit and vegetable producers. Thank to that, they benefits from European funds (FEOGA), and has around 50 mushroom facilities, 2 compost yards, warehouses, specific logistics and more than 800 direct employee.
Evidence of success
It provides a solution for some residual materials, such as straw, chicken manure, etc., transforming them into mushrooms. In the composting process employment is required and also many people are needed to pick mushrooms in the farms, so it provides a living for one thousand families in the region.
The current volume of compost is 130,000 tons per year, producing around 35 M kg of mushrooms, and generating 87 M kg of spent mushroom compost with a total turnover of 70 M€ per year.
-The lack of good raw materials due to drought
-Introduction of new strains designed for good crops but with poor quality straw.
- New harvesting machines that destroy the length of the straw.
- The lack of qualified people
- Some diseases related to mushroom that may reduce the potential yield.
Potential for learning or transfer
In every part of the world there are different kinds of residual materials coming from agricultural and other food industries, and most of these products can be composted, to get a substrate ready to produce mushrooms.
Therefore, this experience of good practices can easily be exported to other regions, which translates into economic wealth and circular economy boost in line with current policies.