Hort Innovation continues to invest the mushroom R&D levy in a number of projects that are strengthening both the profile of Australia mushrooms and the capabilities of the industry. Read more in the R&D snapshot below. To see the recent results of the industry’s marketing levy, and how it will continue to be put to use, check out the marketing snapshot.


The mushroom Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) convened for the second time in September, with a focus on the industry’s marketing program, strategic plan and investment strategies. The SIAP will meet again in late 2016, with meeting summaries continuing to be available on Hort Innovation’s Mushroom grower page.

The selection process for appointing an independent chair for the SIAP has also recently been completed, with information on the chair to be made available on the grower page shortly.

The Strategic Investment Plan

A Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) is the roadmap that helps ensure levy investment decisions align with individual industry priorities. It is used to guide decision-making in levy spending, and represents a balanced view of stakeholders in the industry.

Hort Innovation is currently consulting with growers and other industry stakeholders to finalise new SIPs for each industry by the end of the calendar year.

To learn more about the SIP process, visit Hort Innovation’s SIP Portal.

Any questions?

As well as the Mushroom grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Management Lead John Vatikiotis is always available to answer questions on the mushroom program. For questions relating specifically to the industry’s marketing, contact Hort Innovation Marketing Manager Monique Emmi.



Mushroom 2016 National Conference (MU15700)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? This project was responsible for the industry’s 2016 national conference, a key opportunity for growers and other industry stakeholders to access new information and to network with peers and experts. This year the conference had a theme of Ensuring a Sustainable Future for the Mushroom Industry and was held in Mildura, Victoria on October 13-15.

The conference included a Farm Walk Day at Merbein Mushrooms and presentations on key topics including the future of pesticide use, food safety, quality assurance and pest and disease management in mushrooms. There were also presentations on organics, marketing, the work of Hort Innovation and more.


The industry’s annual conference


Communication program for the Australian mushroom industry 2016-2019 (MU15001)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Following on from the industry’s previous communications projects, this program began in March this year. It delivers effective and timely communications to ensure Australian mushroom growers and other industry stakeholders are kept up-to-date with the latest mushroom R&D and marketing investments, developments and outcomes, and other industry news and information.

What’s the latest update? An updated communications strategy has been developed for the industry and a number of regular communication channels continue to be produced and maintained by this project, including but not limited to:

  • The new quarterly Australian Mushrooms Journal, delivered electronically
  • The monthly Industry Update e-newsletter
  • Industry websites www.mushrooms.net.au and www.emushrooms.org
  • YouTube videos on R&D investments (the first of which are still to be produced).


The winter edition of the Australian Mushrooms Journal


Mushrooms and health global initiative (MU12015)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? This three-year project collected, evaluated and communicated scientific findings on the health and nutrient benefits of mushrooms. It delivered this information to health influencers and media, in turn allowing for the wider communication of accurate and efficient information around the benefits of mushrooms.

The project was established on the basis that credible scientific information, translated into easy-to-understand articles appearing regularly in various communication channels, can be instrumental in changing consumers’ purchase patterns. The aim was to help turn mushrooms from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ – positioning mushrooms as an essential, easy, and tasty way to better health, and supporting the Australian mushroom industry’s strategic positioning.

Over its life, the project:

  • Distributed quarterly bulletins interpreting and customising research findings
  • Maintained the Mushrooms and Health Global Initiative website, www.mushroomsandhealth.com
  • Drew upon the expertise of an international resource directory of mushroom growers and utilised the industry’s Mushrooms and Health Report.

Full details can be found in the project’s final report, available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.


Communication and education of mushroom nutrition research to health professionals – phase 2 (MU14000)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning at the end of 2014, this project collects information about the health and nutrition benefits of mushrooms and uses this to update a range of health professionals – putting them in the best position to advocate for the inclusion of mushrooms in the wider public’s diet.

What’s the latest update? The project continues to update health professionals including dietitians, medical doctors, nurses, dentists and naturopaths, as well as home economists and health media. Communication channels include:

  • The ‘health and nutrition’ section of www.australianmushrooms.com.au, where resources such as fact sheets are kept up to date with new research
  • The project’s Talking Research e-newsletter
  • A printed or electronic version of a succinct brochure, Just Three a Day For a Healthier Life
  • Presentations, farm tours and cooking demonstrations given to health professionals, nutrition students and health media, held around the country.

The project also responds to requests from help from dietitians, bloggers, journalists and researchers regarding the role of mushrooms in health as needed.

It has also produced a video on ways to increase calcium and vitamin D in patients’ diets, in collaboration with the University of Sydney and ThinkGP. The video mentions mushrooms as the only non-animal source of vitamin D, and in its first few months was viewed by 320 health professionals and students. It can be viewed here.

A printed resource to be used by health professionals on calcium and vitamin D, focusing on mushrooms, was also produced and distributed around the country.

The project supports relevant events to help promote the inclusion of mushrooms in the diet too, including the Dietitians Association of Australia’s Healthy Weight Week earlier in 2016, and maintains a presence at relevant industry conferences.

The project leaders report that dietitians continue to be fantastic conduits for the mushroom health message, pointing to examples such as a four-page article on mushrooms, produced by a dietitian using the project’s information without prompt, in the July 2016 edition of Healthy Food Guide, reaching over 260,000 readers.


Mushrooms, vitamin D and cognition – human studies (MU12003)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? Running from 2012, this now-completed project aimed to increase understanding of the role of vitamin D in cognition and mood, undertaking a clinical study investigating the effects of vitamin D2 in mushrooms in particular.

The research initially demonstrated a positive relationship between vitamin D mushroom intake, vitamin D status and selected brain functions in cognitively-healthy older adults (aged 65 to 90 years) – supporting a link with healthy brain function.

It went on to show that mushroom supplementation may provide a small benefit in regards to some cognitive domains in older groups at risk of cognitive decline. It also opened the door to further work investigating the role of vitamin D in mushrooms for managing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Full details can be found in the project’s final report, available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.


Other R&D projects of note…

  • Development of a pilot mushroom farm disease monitoring scheme (MU12007), which is due for completion in early 2017. Its aim has been to develop the capability for growers to effectively manage disease to improve quality and reduce losses.



Launch campaign wrap-up

The biggest campaign in the Australian mushroom industry’s history was launched this year, running from May until the end of August. The levy-funded campaign introduced the new Australians Mushrooms brand and had a focus on encouraging home cooks to add more mushrooms to more meals for healthier and tastier dishes. While the campaign activities were reported on in the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016), the results are now in.

The campaign included the below components:

» Television advertising. Used to promote the great taste and health benefits of mushrooms, build awareness and drive demand, this campaign involved three bursts of activity over six weeks during May and June across all key markets. The ad was featured during top-performing programs such as MasterChef and House Rules. Results included reaching 36 per cent of the entire target audience (grocery buyers aged 25 to 54) in Sydney at least three times during June, and 46 per cent in Melbourne.

» Out of home advertising. Supporting the TV activity, this campaign was run in shopping centres across the country (strategically near supermarkets), with the recipe-focused messaging reaching well over 11 million people.

» Digital media. Over nine weeks, this aspect of the campaign delivered 12.5 million impressions (displays) of high-quality video and display advertising, social media and sponsorship content. It saw mushroom-related content on top-performing websites including Nine.com.au and Taste.com (where the campaign delivered results 178 per cent above expectation). A partnership with media site BuzzFeed also saw innovative mushrooms articles delivering almost 60,000 clicks.

» Social media. Regular posts featured on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AustralianMushrooms/) and Instagram (@australianmushrooms) to support the TV campaign, with this particular content reaching over 2.3 million people. During the campaign period the Facebook audience grew by 36,600 people to now have a fan base of over 76,000 – enabling it to deliver a total reach of 11.8 million people. With Instagram, there was an over 50 per cent growth in followers, which means mushroom messaging is reaching a wider audience than ever before.

» In-store activities and events. In-store activity was conducted in partnership with Australian Onions. Demonstrations were held in 470 stores across the country, with 54 per cent of shoppers who tasted the mushroom and onion sample (a bolognese) going on to purchase mushrooms. In terms of events, Australian Mushrooms participated in a number of royal shows and foodie-focussed events during the campaign, providing access to 480,000 people and seeing the distribution of 37,000 samples.

» PR. To support the campaign, media outlets, health professionals and food bloggers were sent media packs and Australian Mushrooms hampers to help get the mushroom message out to their audiences.


An Australian Mushrooms out-of-home advertising panel (above) and one of the BuzzFeed articles (below)



What’s happening now?

A new two-month campaign began in October, with a focus on meal inspiration to encourage more frequent purchase and consumption of mushrooms. Activities in this campaign include:

» Digital media, with a series of inspiration videos being delivered to consumers on video on-demand sites such as Ten Play and 9Now, as well as YouTube. There will also be a partnership with BuzzFeed, with the delivery of two high-reaching articles highlighting the health benefits, affordability and adaptability of mushrooms during November (‘15 One-Pot Mushroom Recipes For People Who Hate Doing Dishes’ and ‘Literally Just A Whole Post Dedicated To Mushrooms’).

» Out of home advertising, with mushrooms featuring across nearly 700 advertising panels in shopping centres nationally.

» In-store activity, with demonstrations featuring rissole samples being held in nearly 470 stores, again in partnership with Australian Onions. Mushroom meal ideas are also being presented in the free Coles Magazine to inspire shoppers. The magazine is seen by almost three million consumers each month. Point-of-sale materials will appear in 250 Woolworths stores throughout Australia, too, including posters and recipe handouts to further drive home the Australian Mushroom message.

» Social media, with meal ideas and tip videos continuing to engage ever-growing audiences.


Some of the recent activity in the Australian Mushrooms social channels, with the content reaching a significantly larger audience off the back of the brand’s 2016 launch campaign



Bill Littleson and his business partner, Mick Surridge, run the only company in Australia with the core job of producing and supplying compost to mushroom farms. And the pair know their market well – as growers themselves, they produce 10 tonnes of mushrooms a week from their business in Diggers Rest, Victoria.

Bill started the compost company in 1995 when the family business he was working for was purchased by a corporation. “Now, 25 per cent of mushrooms in Australia are grown on compost that’s purchased, and we supply half of that. Around Australia 120 to 140 tonnes of mushrooms are grown on our compost every week,” Bill said.

Scato Plus produces 500 tonnes of phase three compost weekly. “It’s made from wheaten straw and chicken manure, so we’re recycling waste agricultural products into a product that’s perfectly suited for growing the white button mushroom.”

Speaking from a mushroom grower’s perspective, Bill said the last two years had been hard on the industry because the market was sensitive to slight changes in supply. “We can’t rely on a good price in the market any more. This has only happened in the last couple of years, and we’re not used to it. It’s difficult to plan ahead when you’ve got prices fluctuating from very high to very low.”

The industry should work on trying to rationalise supply, he added. “That doesn’t mean everyone producing too much, because it’s going to be harder for everyone. Right now, we need to get demand up to match supply.” Bill hoped this could be achieved with the help of advertising and promotions at the right time of year.

Looking to the future, Bill said new technologies for more-efficient picking and growth in the organic sector were spaces to watch. “The demand is very low at the moment, but that will build over the next five to 10 years.”

In the past, Bill and Mick have exported and are currently considering contracts that will allow the business to export mushrooms to South East Asia, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan. “When the Australian dollar is at the right point we’ve got a higher chance of getting in,” Bill said.

The pair also has plans for expansion. “As the demand in the industry grows we want to build. We think there’s an opportunity for another 100-tonne mushroom farm in Victoria.”

Bill said he loved the diverse range of knowledge the industry required. “It’s the sort of industry where you have to be across everything. You have to be a chemist, biologist, plumber, electrician, diesel mechanic, air conditioning expert and HR manager,” he said.

“You have to be able to do everything to be able to grow mushrooms. You have to understand how chickens produce manure, how farmers grow wheat and make straw. You have to understand your raw materials. Once you’re in it, you sort of get hooked on it because you’ve learnt so much about all the different aspects that are so specific to your industry.”

Being part of a small industry also means Bill and Mick have created close ties with other mushroom growers. “We know just about everyone and after being in it so long, it just becomes your life.”

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