More excitement than imaginable at Basciani Mushroom Farms
“There is a lot of excitement going on at Basciani Mushroom Farms these days,” Fred Recchiuti, general manager of the Avondale, PA-based company told The Produce News. “Our new ‘Produce Pro’ software is up and running, and it’s an amazing system. It allows us to mock recalls that puts us through exercises in case there is ever an unlikely situation. I can trace back to the room the mushrooms were produced and forward to every customer that received from that lot, and I can do it in 15 minutes.”
More exciting news at the company is its new barcode system. Similar to those used by UPS and Federal Express, it is a full-tracking system.
“We have an integrated total enterprise solution with accounting, ordering, transportation, live inventory and traceability in one program with this system,” said Recchiuti. “It took us about two years to get it up and running because the modules are implemented in steps. It’s up and running in full as of about six months ago.”
He added that on an even more exciting note is the company’s strategy for growth over the next 10 years. Company executives just completed three years of land development working with environmental engineering firms, land development engineers, permitting applications and approvals from the Department of Environmental Protection, the local township, county and numerous other agencies.
“This 60-acre piece of land is one of the only pieces of property in this area that could be approved for mushroom production,” said Recchiuti. “The Basciani family is now in its fourth generation of family members. Mario Basciani, managing owner, and his wife Anna have five children, 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren,” Recchiuti said. “And there is one more on the way. This company is only going to grow larger in the future. Our plan is to develop 47 additional mushroom houses on this land over a 10-year period, and there will be plenty of Basciani family members to keep them running.”
He explained the reason there is only limited land available for new mushroom house development is that residents don’t want a mushroom farm in their back yard, so governing agencies are very strict about where new ones are built.
The first stage of the development plan is for 12 houses to be built, which Recchiuti said are expected to be producing mushrooms by next spring.
“This first stage alone will increase our production by approximately four million pounds a year,” he noted. “We’re also in the process of making changes in our existing 60 houses by turning them over faster. One way to accomplish this is to switch to phase two composting, which means that the pasteurization of the compost will be done off site. This will increase our production by 200,000 pounds per week.”
And just when you think a company can’t possibly have any other exciting news to report — Basciani does. For the first time it is planting a 20-acre blackberry farm, also in Avondale. Recchiuti explained that the majority of blackberries are imported except for during the months of June, July and August.
“They are in extremely short supply during this period, especially on the East Coast,” he said. “Our goal is to cross-market blackberries with mushrooms in an attempt to expand more into retail in the future. Our heaviest concentration today is on the foodservice sector, but we see retail as a part of our future strategy. Blackberries are growing in demand by leaps and bounds, and they will make a great segue into the retail market for us.”
Basciani Mushroom Farms is not exhibiting at the upcoming Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in New Orleans, but it is doing something very special during the event.
“We are conducting tours of our Louisiana mushroom farm,” said Recchiuti. “The facility is in Independence, about 50 minutes north of New Orleans. We like to say that we’re the best mushroom producer in Louisiana, and that we’re the only mushroom producer there.”
He pointed out that production costs are higher than ever, and with demand up growers like Basciani are hoping for more solid prices that hold in the future.
“Of all of the mushrooms produced in the U.S., 62 percent are grown in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Portobello sales are up by 23 percent so far this year. Per capita consumption is at an all-time high in the U.S. — at 2.8 pounds per person. But we’re still not up with Canada, where the per capita consumption is five pounds per person. We have a way to go to educate American consumers on the great flavor, usability and nutritional value of mushrooms in this country.”