Growing mushrooms in Georgia

By Lucia Sconosciuto

Growing mushrooms in Georgia

Rustavi, is mostly known today for its industry. But besides steel and pipes, the city’s Soviet-style urban landscape is the backdrop for a very different type of production, slower, more delicate and more natural: the cultivation of mushrooms.

In 2010 the entrepreneurial spirit of two locals and one Armenian culminated in the establishment of Tetri Kudi –or ‘white cap’- a reference to the champignon mushrooms that this small agribusiness grows and sells.

“In 2011 we also began to cultivate oyster mushrooms,” said the company’s director, Alexandre Maisuradze. “Each month we produce 120 tonnes of champignons and between 20 to 25 tonnes of oyster mushrooms.”

In the company’s state-of-the-art greenhouse a team of women controlled the rows of “white caps” emerging from the dark compost and picked those ready for consumption. Even among such abundance works still felt like an outdoor mushroom hunt. Maybe that was why the 150 staff working here seemed so cheerful.

 

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That and, of course, the fact that two years later Tetri Kudi’s business is really taking off. The company’s yearly turnover increased by more than 45 per cent in 2012 and has already grabbed around 80 per cent of local market share by replacing imported produce.

This rapid growth, though, also meant that keeping track and managing the company had become a much more complicated. From warehouse operations to sales and distribution data and human resources , everything started to require a more comprehensive information and management system.

“Our accountancy software didn’t allow us to conduct a precise analysis of our clients and customers,” recalled Mr Maisuradze.

This is where the EBRD Business Advisory Services (BAS) team came in. They put Tetri Kudi in touch with a local consulting company to advise on introducing a customised management information system that would help streamline the work and increase control.

The European Union, which funds BAS operations in Georgia to support local small and medium-sized enterprises, covered 30 per cent of the costs of the project while the rest was paid by Tetri Kudi itself.

“In the 10 years we’ve been operating in Georgia, we have worked on more than 700 projects with small businesses like Tetri Kudi, in rural and urban areas alike, working with more than 200 local consultants,” explained Severian Gvinepadze, EBRD’s National Programme Manager for the BAS team in Georgia.

“The impact of this work is clear: after undertaking a project more than 60 per cent of enterprises reported an increase in turnover and more than 45 per cent increased their number of employees.”

As Mr Maisuradze guided Mr Gvinepadze through the greenhouse, cases full of freshly cut mushrooms were being stacked and their distinctive smell filled the warm rooms.

“This new system has given us the chance to thoroughly analyse our production processes and the result is a much more efficient process which also saves us money,” concluded Mr Maisuradze.