AMYCEL - LEADING THE WAY : Vendome Visit 28-29 November 2007
The cold dark nights at the end of November heralded a singular experience for a delegation of Irish and English Mushroom industry personnel from the compost end of the industry. Amycel hosted delegations on a visit to Amycel HQ in Vendome in France, for a unique insight into the way Amycel spawn production works.
The visit included an examination and explanation of the methods and processes used; a viewing of the state of the art facilities that exist at the Vendome plant; an explanatory session on the whys and wherefores of the newly acquired Certification GNIS-SOC that puts Amycel at the forefront of worldwide spawn technology.
The Irish grouping comprised Stephen Mc Kew representing Cabragh Mushroom Compost (CMC); Thomas Mc Kew representing Tandragee Compost; Bernard Connolly representing Marley Compost and Phillip Wilson who was representing Monaghan's interest. Also in the delegation from Ireland were Kieran Smyth and Eilin Connolly the Irish reps for Amycel.
Travelling from England the contingent included John Garlick, Head of Amycel UK; Amycel technical rep Carl Bozicek; and Herbie Sullivan who has been working with Sussex Mushrooms as an advisor.
The two groups travelled respectively from Belfast City (George Best Belafst City Airport to the locals) airport and from London, to Charles De Gaulle. From Paris the group travelled by rail to Vendome, on the plush SNCF regular train service - arriving in Vendome just 2 Â½ hours later.
When they reached the Vendome facility- they were fetched and carried, as on would expect, at all stages of the trip - the groups joined up with compost representatives from the Dutch, Spanish and Belgium mushroom industries who were also invited along for the tour.
The main purpose of the visit was to give the Irish compost representatives an in-depth look at what Amycel do and at how the company is moving forward and looking to the future, with investment and developments at its European facility. The Amycel European HQ facility in France proudly received Governmental Certification for its spawn products earlier in the year.
After working closely with the Service Officiel de Certification GNIS-SOC, a public service which is the official organization for the certification all plants and seeds in France, for over 15 months, the official certification was published in the summer 2007. Since the Certification has been accepted by the EU as well as GNIS, this certification allows Amycel to market certified spawn throughout the European Union. Hubert Hay led the tour of the facility - he runs the spawn plant at Amycel S.A .r.l. Vendome, on a day to day basis as General Manager.
He was the perfect gentleman and host by all accounts - guiding his charges through the intricacies of Amycel spawn production and quality control procedures. Then the assembled company were drawn into a talk on the Certification of which Amycel is justifiably proud. The benefits of the Certification were explained to the assembled audience. The two major benefits for Amycel customers are:
1. Amycel customers have the additional reassurances of buying from a company whose systems and procedures have passed a rigid review further assuring only the highest quality of products.
2. Producer's Organizations can take part in the Operational Funding system of the EU (EU rule 1433/2003 of the Commission dated August 11, 2003). As such, Producer Organizations can submit to refund a significant part of their spawn purchases which can be up to 30% for the certified seeds.
Later in the evening on the Wednesday, after the talks and tours, the invitees were wined and dined in famous French fashion, with fine foods and finer wines and plenty of beers for those not predisposed to the vino. The evening's entertainment floated along on an air cushion of craic and conviviality - everyone had a fine time of it. The Amycel reps from all the various countries in attendance were doing their bit to ensure the conviviality of the evening did not dip, but they also managed to enjoy the evening too.
After clearing their heads on the Thursday morning the group then went on a farm visit to a Tray farm which is operating inside the auspices of the Co-operative of French Champignon. The farm, Letocart Champignonniere, had the very latest in mushroom farming technology - a Phase IV unit.
All of the visitors reportedly were very impressed by the whole Phase IV concept and operation. The compost men were fascinated by the whole set-up: the trays arrived pinned on the farm, the grower then just has to get the crop picked, which itself is down differently too.
Picking team in action
The trays are moved along on conveyor belts, as the pickers work in teams and all the picking is done outside the growing tunnels. The trays are also watered after they've been picked, emerging out one end of the tunnel and being returned in for the next flush to begin.
The picking regimen is pretty tight and the grading process on this particular farm was "unbelievably good" - there was a lot less waste than would exist on many other farms. The compost men were also fascinated by the casing soil that was being used - it constituents being 75% chalk. As the man said, it's just a whole difference process!
The Letocart farm would have originally been a cave farm, which France is famous for - now it is at the cutting edge of technology in the mushroom industry. It just goes to show that any farm can move with the times. The group then had a super fast run back to Paris on their way home on the Thursday evening on the pride of the French rail system the TGV (train a grande vitesse, literally the train of great speed). The nearly 200 miles to Paris, which had taken 2 1/2 hrs on the "slow" train, were covered in 40 minutes on the return leg, reaching speeds of 195mph.The top speed recorded for a TGV is a whopping 357mph (that wasn't a passenger train though).
The whole expedition to France was fast and fabulous; highly informational and chock full of experiences for the compost men. There was the odd murmuring that there ought to be more expeditions like it - there's a feeling about that the Irish industry has become a bit more insular of late. But there were no grumbles at all about the whole experience, the compost men certainly enjoyed themselves.
Observing the machinations and processes at the "Tower" at Vendome, and with the attendant soiree, it was no doubt a highlight of the year for the group from Ireland.