MORE than 100 jobs are being created as an Irish mushroom supplier invests in a new multi-million pound growing and packing facility in the region.

The new facility, thought to the only one if its kind in the world, is set to open its doors on the rural outskirts of Holme-On-Spalding-Moor.

Hughes, a Northern Ireland-based family-run firm with more than 50 years’ experience supplying the UK mushroom market, is investing heavily in the site to meet increasing demand for ‘home grown’ mushrooms.

It is thought that the first mushrooms from the plant will be available to British consumers from mid-September.

The first phase of the new environmentally-friendly production facility, due to be operational in early September, will initially create 70 jobs in the area, and this is planned to increase to 100 fulltime roles by the end of 2017.

The 11-acre facility near Howden was chosen because of the region’s strong agricultural heritage and proximity to the major motorway network. This will enable the family-run company to serve both current and new customers and allow staff from across the region a straightforward commute.

Emmet Hughes, business development director, said: “The world-class facility we’re creating in East Yorkshire is unrivalled in Europe in terms of its efficiency and environmentally-friendly credentials.

“It has been developed after extensive research with some of the world’s most successful producers to meet the demands and challenges of the modern industry.

“We searched all over the UK and the site at Holme on Spalding Moor was ideal because of its existing agricultural heritage and strong transport links.

“The plant is completely temperature controlled and chemical-free, and we have introduced unique harvesting methods to create a great growing and working environment.”

In addition to the boost to the local economy in terms of jobs, the site will also offer benefits to local farmers. The residual compost from the mushroom farming can be used to add much-needed organic matter to improve soil structure.

Hughes has also worked with local landscapers to ensure that the plant is in keeping with its rural location.

Energy efficiency and sustainability

The site is designed to be among the most energy-efficient mushroom production facilities in the UK. It is equipped with industry-leading technology to improve quality and reduce waste, while reducing road-miles and emissions by being geographically closer to customers.

The ground-breaking technology used at Hughes’ new site also means the plant requires significantly less land than traditional mushroom production facilities which use polytunnels.

Business growth

Hughes, based at Dungannon in Co Tyrone, has doubled turnover in the past six years by supplying most of the main UK retailers with produce from 20 independent growers.

Emmet Hughes added: “We believe the scale and ambition of our investment in our East Yorkshire site is unprecedented in the UK mushroom industry.

“Producing mushrooms for the British market is something we’ve been focusing on for many years, but this investment is particularly timely as the UK prepares to leave the European Union. People within the food industry have been saying for some time that the volume of British produce needs to be increased and many current and potential customers are already prioritising suppliers who are UK-based.

Hughes currently supplies 230 tonnes of mushrooms per week to retailers throughout the UK, as well as producing its own range of prepared mushroom meal solutions.

The new site in England will be additional and complimentary to the company’s activities in Northern Ireland and will enable it to continue to meet growing demand, with particular focus on premium lines, while developing new product lines.

A family business established in 1964, Hughes is the largest supplier of pre-packed mushrooms in Northern Ireland. The business supports mushroom growers locally by providing 85% of local produce for distribution to outlets across the UK. Over 90% of its sales are to major retail groups.