Premier Mushrooms Inc. is among the United States-based companies selected by the Economic Development of Yucatan State in Mexico (EDYSM) as a model for growing, processing and distributing alternative crops.
A group of 10 EDYSM delegates visited the Colusa mushroom farm on June 17 for a tour and a discussion with Premier CEO John Ashbaugh and management staff along with Colusa County Supervisor Mark Marshall and Colusa County Economic Development/Chamber executive Director Gary Teragawa.
The EDYSM in collaboration with the Mexico’s National Institute of Entrepreneurship is working on a regional project that aims to improve the competitiveness of local production and processing companies of Habanera chili peppers.
The group is interested in studying the food market and demand trends evolving into the future and said they are keen on learning from business models such as Premier Mushrooms that base their customer value proposition on strong product and service differentiation as well as on a quick response to demand changes and needs.
While the chili operation is well established in Yucatan; they’ve grown the peppers there for about 200 years, the group including representatives from the state’s EDC, Institute of Entrepreneurship, Center of Scientific
Investigation, Department of Rural Development, FUMEC (a program of Business International Acceleration, created in 2004 by the Mexican Ministry of Economy), and the Cluster Competitiveness Group were most interested in all aspects of marketing a specialty crop.
Ashbaugh told the group that successful marketing hinges on quality, consistency, and reliability.
“Quality of product is at the top of the list,” he said.
He explained that bringing new technology from Holland to mushroom growing practices in the United States has been key to Premier’s growth. Premier has a fully automated “Dutch Style” farm.
Erik de Groot, Vice President of Operations at Premier is originally from Holland and has spent his entire career in the mushroom industry. The farm’s growers have also trained in Holland.
Marshall shared that in Colusa County the County is foremost supportive of job creation.
He commented that with the states assistance Colusa County was able to provide a low interest loan to Premier so that it could complete its expansion project in the fall of 2013. The project increased the farm’s growing rooms to 64 rooms and created jobs bringing the current total to over 200 employees.
Since Premier first purchased the already existing farm in 2006 it has grown from 16 growing rooms to 64 and from production of 60,000 pounds of product a week to nearly 300,000 pounds a week.
The Secretary of Economic Development (SEFOE) in Yucatan is working on an initiative called TSAAY Yucatan which aims to improve the competitiveness of the Habanero chili pepper industry located in the State of Yucatan, Mexico.
The initiative was launched with two main objectives; to help SEFOE understand the needs of the state’s Habanero chili pepper industry and to be able to define demand-orientated support policies and to bring first-class information to local agents in the industry.
Part of the plan includes a six month process of thorough market research and analysis, including meetngs and interviews such as the one at Premier Mushrooms Inc.
It is the groups hope that these interviews and meetings in the U.S. will help them to understand how other companies have overcome challenges similar to the ones the Yucatan companies have and are facing. ■