By Melissa Keogh
Growing up in the family’s fruit and veg shop must have rubbed off on South Australian brothers Nick and Nat Femia.
For almost half a century their father Sam worked as a greengrocer, with 36 of those years spent at Sam’s Fruit Market in St Agnes Shopping Centre in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.
But it seems one vegetable in particular stuck with the Femia brothers – mushrooms.
Nick and Nat, together with Sam, are behind family business SA Mushrooms, based at Waterloo Corner on the Adelaide Plains.
Every week 20 tonnes of Swiss brown, white button, field mushrooms – and a special Vitamin D rich variety – are grown in a humid climate controlled facility.
But it’s when they hit South Australia’s biggest fruit and veg wholesale markets, the SA Produce Markets at Pooraka, that the real action begins.
“The farm is located 15km from the SA Produce Market – we’re the closest mushroom farm to a wholesale market in the country,” says Nick, CEO of SA Mushrooms.
“It’s good for our carbon footprint.”
The SA Produce Market is the biggest of its kind in the state, selling 250,000 tonnes of produce, worth a combined $550m, between wholesalers, growers and retail operators every year.
It’s the only wholesale market that supplies to independent fruit and veg retailers in SA such as IGA, Foodland and independent retailers.
“Every mushroom that we grow ends up at the produce market,” Nick says.
“From here our mushrooms are trucked to independent supermarkets including 110 Foodland stores across the state.
“Our mushrooms also end up in pizza bars and restaurants, and we are heavily dedicated to the greengrocers, after all, my dad was a greengrocer.”
The SA Produce Market is pivotal to the northern food bowl area, as almost half of SA Produce Market traders are growers from the Northern Plains, in particular Virginia.
Nicol Carrots, IG Fresh Produce, and T Musolino and Co are all said to have undergone farm expansions or celebrate innovations in recent years – achievements reflective of SA’s strong agribusiness sector.
SA Mushrooms isn’t exempt from growth either.
Nick says the business has experienced significant growth across production, staff numbers and turnover and that an expansion is on the horizon.
“We’re in the process of planning for an expansion in the next year-and-a-half across our composting and production facility,” he says.
“Our staff will increase from 50 to 100.”
The SA Produce Market is also set to undergo a new chapter by way of a $25m expansion.
The project includes new food processing, packing and warehousing facilities, export consolidation, and retail tenancies.
SA Produce Market CEO Angelo Demasi says the growth will allow businesses to consolidate their manufacturing processes and have direct access to the market.
“The opportunity to work so closely to the market and have their operations in a similar place is a huge benefit to businesses that are looking to expand,” he says.
“The project is currently in the early stages with businesses in discussions that would benefit significantly from the project.”
Angelo says the market plays an important part in the SA economy, with more than 1500 people employed on site.
“ … 13,500 permanent and an additional 24,000 seasonal staff all rely at different levels on the SA Produce Market on a daily basis,” he says.
“Horticulture contributes $3.232 billion to the SA economy on gross food revenue of which $1.65 billion is attributed to the markets.”
Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to read more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.