The Great Australian Mushroom Company is currently operating in the Melbourne Markets. It supplies small supermarkets, independent retailers, and hospitality providers throughout Victoria with a complete range of white and brown Agaricus, imported and locally grown exotic mushrooms and wild mushrooms.
The Great Australian Mushroom Company (GRAMCo), started back in 1994, when co-founders Wes Arnott and partner subleased a B-Store in the West Melbourne Markets with only $500 each to start their new business. As an ex retailer Wes knew that there were gaps in the mushroom market and a demand was there for more variety.
Mushrooms were scarce on the market floor prior to the late eighties and as they started to take off, wholesalers struggled to keep up with demand. “Retailers were known to come into the market early and line up just to buy mushrooms” says Wes. The range at the time was limited and spasmodic as Australian’s transitioned from mushrooms sold in cans to fresh cup and button varieties.
By the nineties, mushrooms had ‘bedded in’ to mainstream fresh produce lines so it was a good time to enter the mushroom wholesale industry. “We wanted to emphasise that we were selling good quality mushrooms and open (Field) mushrooms were a niche product at the time” continued Wes.
“Field mushrooms were only available as a by-product sourced from Sydney. They were not sold consistently in the Melbourne Market, so I sourced a supplier and starting selling Field’s every day and the business grew from there.”
Wes was no stranger to the mushroom industry having owned his own fruit and vegetable retail businesses as well as providoring and working in a wholesale outlet for mushrooms. His love and knowledge of mushrooms developed and he soon recognised the potential of tapping into the fungi industry.
It took a lot of hard-work to get the business up and running but Wes rolled up his sleeves and got the job done. It took more than a year to purchase the company’s first forklift, until then, stock was delivered by using a pallet jack, hand-trucks or by hand. “We were the business’s horse and cart,” Wes says proudly. Wes took over the business as a sole Director four years after opening and has been living the mushroom dream ever since.
Since 1994, GRAMCo has grown to include both state-wide and interstate customers as well as plans to export. “Agaricus mushrooms still account for 90% of the mushrooms sold in the market and is the majority of our business but we are always looking for new opportunities”.
As well as the popular Agaricus mushrooms, GRAMCo have always sold wild mushrooms and an exotic range. “Historically, exotics have not been grown in Australia due to the cheap cost of importing, so they are primarily sourced from overseas” says Wes. “But the exotic market is expanding quickly as Asian culinary influences, health and wellbeing and high profile cooking shows introduce them to a much wider market”.
To capitalise on the growing mushroom market, GRAMCo is expanding into vertical integration with the construction of their own exotic mushroom farm, located in Melbourne’s outer northern suburbs close to the new Epping Market.
“This farm will grow and produce over a dozen varieties of mushrooms, some of which have never before been seen in the MelbourneMarket,” says Jim Fuller, the General Manager of GRAMCo and soon to be business partner of the new farm. Texan bred Jim will bring his expertise of mushrooms to the business and says that an exciting new range of Australian grown mushrooms will be the focus of the farm. “I used to grow over forty types of mushrooms in the United States including medicinal nutraceutical fungi, so Wes and I will use both of our mushroom knowledge to grow great quality mushy’s”.
Australian grown, freshly picked, clean and green mushrooms, will be the focus of the farm which will grow not only exotic mushrooms for the general public to support the wholesale arm of the business, but they are also throwing themselves into medicinal fungi.
The Cordyceps fungi is big business in Asia for its medicinal properties and is extremely rare and expensive. Scientific studies have shown that the compounds produced by the Cordyceps mushroom can increase blood flow, enhance healing, produce more stamina and energy, and create better focus. This type of fungi will feature in the GRAMCo medicinal range.
Exporting to the Asian market is the perfect way to grow the business with Asia’s appetite for high quality produce, but it won’t stop there continues Jim. “We also plan to sell the Cordyceps mushroom to the night shift workers here at the markets, to boost their energy so when they get home after work they can actually have a life”.
Wes Arnott (right) - Managing Director
James Fuller (left) - General Manager
Mr. Wes Arnott, Managing Director
Wes Arnott has been a long-standing entrepreneur with experience in the fruit and vegetable industry since 1975. He has a history of initiating successful start-up business in retail, providoring and wholesaling. Throughout his career he has successfully worked with and developed relationships with companies such as Coles, Woolworths, RACV Club, major CBD hotels, Australian Airlines and Ansett airlines.
Wes is the founder and current CEO of GRAMCO where he managed the operation from start to the current successful business. His experience in the industry and business acumen makes him a great and valuable resource for the farm.
Wes will be in charge of business development, strategic management and marketing operations and of the company and receive consultancy remuneration.
Key skills include:
• Strategic Planning - long term opportunities
• Business Development
• Product development
• Project Management
• Marketing Strategy
• Sales Strategy
Mr. Jim Fuller, General Manager
Jim is an agricultural scientist, internationally regarded as an expert in growing exotic mushrooms. He recently spoke by invitation at The National Mushroom Machinery Conference in China during 2014.
Jim discovered his passion for mushrooms while working as a chef in Texas at “Biga on the Banks” under Bruce Auden. Working as a chef has given Jim valuable insight to the food service industry and a unique perspective of consumer attitudes when it comes to selling mushrooms.
Jim has almost 10 years experience in the mushroom industry and is an integral asset of this business. His experience in growing commercial quantities of exotic mushrooms was gained through working as the spawn supervisor at Gourmet Mushrooms Inc. - The USA’s largest exotic mushroom grower.
Jim’s expertise is well recognised around Australia with Costa group employing him as their spawn laboratory team leader, where he worked for 3 years prior until December 2013.
In December 2013 Jim joined GRAMCO wholesale as general manager and lead salesmen. He was integral to GRAMCO’s sales recovery following the loss of a key supplier. Jim and Wes teamwork have increased GRAMCO wholesale sales by 40% during this period.
• New Product Development
• Australian Indigenous Culture Library
• Spawn and Substrate production / Variety Selection
• Mushroom Cultivation and Harvesting, Packing
• Production Management