Mushrooms are big business in South County
WEST KINGSTON, R.I. (WLNE) — Almost a decade ago in Middletown, a business was born in a closet. ABC 6’s Kelly Bates takes us to the Rhode Island Mushroom Company where cultivating fungi and moving it efficiently means big success.
Nine years ago, Michael Hallock tried his hand at growing mushrooms in a closet at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown. His passion for all things porcini and Portobello have taken him to West Kingston today.
Hallock is the founder and CEO of the Rhode Island Mushroom Company and they move a lot of mushrooms.
He notes, “There’s been challenges along the way, being a food business anywhere can be difficult scaling, financing, things of that nature. We made it work and we went from 40 pounds to now we sell close to half a million pounds every week.”
The Rhode Island Mushroom Company grows and distributes 15 varieties of gourmet mushrooms. Each block grows less than two pounds of mushrooms, requiring an immense amount of space to meet demand.
As a result, they have three additional grow facilities to meet customer demand as far west as Chicago and as far south as the Bahamas.
“What we’re really good at is logistics, packing, refrigeration, getting the product cool, but then also trucking and being able to get the product from the grow room to the grocery shelf as fast as possible.” Hallock said.
It’s the grow room where the science happens! Like people, fungi need oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Fresh oxygen-rich air is vital and the air is changed in the grow rooms 20 times per hour. Here is where the air composition is key to making the best mushrooms.
Michael Hallock explains, “We get rid of all that CO2 and pump in fresh oxygen. If we didn’t, we’d have long, spindly mushrooms and not pretty flowery mushrooms.”
Customers have taken notice! The Rhode Island Mushroom Company hasn’t taken in a single new customer in the past two years and have almost doubled sales since then. Not bad for a closet mushroom farm from Middletown.