Right on the Button

Soon, all our spinneysFOOD mushrooms will be enriched with Vitamin D and we’re working with Kinoko Farms on this exciting project. Here, we chat to managing partner Raju Sennik, to learn about his forward-thinking and sustainable company
Right on the Button
Right on the Button
April 28, 2020
By Tiffany Eslick

Kinoko is the first mushroom farm in Dubai. How did this all start?
Kinoko Farms is a family business. We have over 20 years’ experience in international food management and five years ago, we looked at opportunities in the UAE market. We found that mushrooms were being largely imported into the country on a regular basis, so we decided to establish a farm in Dubai to produce mushrooms of premium quality that are handpicked and delivered to consumers on the same day, offering a fresher, high-quality product, with a longer shelf life.
  The process of establishing the farm started in 2015 and by December 2017 we were growing mushrooms and proudly serving them to the national market.

What’s your current capacity?
We can produce 3,000kg of mushrooms per day. These are white and brown button mushrooms as well as portobellos.

All your farming is done indoors. Don’t mushrooms need light?
Unlike plants, mushrooms do not contain chlorophyll, so they do not require light or photosynthesis to grow. Thus, they do not necessarily need a bright environment to be cultivated.

Tell us about your set up.
We are immensely proud of our high-tech mushroom farm with state-of-the-art-technology to control and maintain specific climate conditions in the growing rooms where we cultivate premium-quality mushrooms. All our mushrooms are pesticide free.
  Different types of mushrooms require specific climate conditions to grow. In the wild, they’re exposed to these conditions in particular seasons – for example when it rains. Indoor farming allows us to maintain the required climate conditions all year around, irrespective of the weather outside. The technologies we use result in high-yielding and top-quality mushrooms available throughout the year.
  We follow strict protocols that are designed and led by an experienced team and qualified field staff. Every part of the process is done by hand, in the most hygienic and safest way: from growing, picking, processing and packing through to the delivery and distribution of our mushrooms.
  Mushroom farming is a combination of science and art. The former looks at how we maintain the environment of our growing rooms by controlling temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide. The latter refers to how we as growers fine tune all the growing parameters as per our visual observations and past experiences.

What sort of growing times are we looking at, for say, a crop of white button mushrooms?
There are six stages in the mushroom growing process: composting, spawning, casing, pinning, cropping and harvesting. In order to grow mature white button mushrooms it would take around six weeks: from cultivating the mycelium to receiving the first harvest of mushrooms.

You’ve developed a range of mushrooms for Spinneys that are enriched with vitamin D. Why is the latter important? And how are you enriching the mushrooms?
Did you know that according to a Dubai Health Authority study in 2017, around 90 per cent of the population was likely to be deficient in vitamin D? Research has shown that this vitamin can improve bone health and reduce the risk of various cancers and diabetes. It also can boost your immune system and help decrease the risk of respiratory diseases. It was therefore very important to us to develop a solution to help the residents and citizens of this country – so that through diet, they could enrich their bodies with vitamin D. We first launched a range of locally grown enriched mushrooms at the end of 2019 – and our full range for Spinneys is set to launch in stores soon. The way in which we enrich the mushrooms is by exposing them to certain spectres of light which naturally increase their vitamin D production.

Beside vitamin D, what other health benefits do mushrooms offer?
These vary depending on each variety. But, overall, mushrooms are a good source of protein and fibre. As per the USDA Nutrient Database, they also contain vitamins and minerals including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, vitamin C and B-vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, thiamine
and folate).

What other mushrooms do you supply to Spinneys and from where are they sourced?
We have extended our range of mushrooms to include exotic and wild varieties that we grow at our partner farms in Asia and Europe. We offer over 30 different types of mushrooms including king and baby king oyster, grey oyster, white and golden enoki, brown and white shimeji and shiitake.

As a key player in the UAE food industry – why is food security and sustainability important to you?
The UAE government’s food security policy and sustainable initiatives regarding food supply are important. Kinoko Farms is proud to play a role in contributing to, investing in and supporting the country.
  We will continue to expand our production capacity for the UAE’s future needs, and we would like to thank the government for all its continued support.

Produce category manager Neil Gibson says…
We used to source our mushrooms from farms in Holland, so when we heard about Kinoko’s production in Dubai we were keen to learn more. Mushrooms stay at their best for a relatively short period of time, approximately four days. It is therefore critical to cut down as much time between picking and the product appearing on your plate. We were impressed with Kinoko’s investment and focus that went into developing a world-class growing facility right on our door step. It was clear on meeting the team that this was a forward-thinking farm with a high-quality focus, so an ideal partner for Spinneys. We have worked closely with Kinoko on the vitamin-D project and are excited about rolling this out across our core mushroom lines. Vitamin D is essential to healthy living and we are pleased to be playing a small part in helping our customers achieve their daily allowance.