Armagh-based Button Farm Mushrooms is to create four new jobs after investing over £1.5m in a new high tech mushroom processing and packing facility. The company secured a £200,000 loan from the Growth Loan Fund to support the project.
Finance for the £50m Growth Loan Fund – which provides loans to established Northern Ireland SMEs seeking to access growth finance – has been provided by Invest Northern Ireland and private investor, Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC).
Button Farm Mushrooms was formed earlier this year by brothers Jonathan and David McKew, who have over 25 years’ experience in the compost industry. The business, which currently employs 14 staff, is looking to expand from producing mushroom compost to mushroom growing, processing and marketing.
Director of the company, Jonathan McKew, said: “We have noticed a real shift in the UK and Irish mushroom industry, with a growing demand for high quality produce. As a result of this we are now keen to expand the business and have invested over £1.5m to construct and operate six mushroom growing rooms and a modern, high tech, mushroom processing and packing facility.
“We have also invested in the latest technology, being the first company in the UK to use a harvesting machine to pick the mushrooms. The picker has sped up our processing time, enabling us to double the amount of mushrooms picked to 70 kilograms an hour.
Co-director, David McKew continued: “We are exporting 98% of our produce to Tesco in Great Britain via G’s Fresh, with future plans to sell to multi-national and smaller retailers. We are also focusing on developing our current produce and bringing new products to market.”
David McCurley, senior investment manager at WhiteRock Capital Partners said: “The McKew brothers have extensive experience in the agri-food sector and this latest expansion to the business is testament to their growing reputation.
“The business is growing its export links right across the UK and is a perfect example of the type of company the Growth Loan Fund is keen to support.”
WhiteRock Capital Partners LLP, which is authorised and regulated by the FCA, was established in 2012 to manage the Fund by the consortium of three partners – Braveheart Investment Group, NEL Fund Managers and Clarendon Fund Managers. Companies seeking funding from the Growth Loan Fund must be based in Northern Ireland, demonstrating growth potential and generally be in the manufacturing, engineering or tradable services sectors. Loans will be typically unsecured and personal guarantees will not be sought.
The loans provided are expected to be complementary to existing sources of finance, including banks, trade finance sources and equity investors. Loans are provided on a fully commercial basis, with monthly loan repayments required over typically a five-year term.