Business: Central Composting
In business since: 2002
Location: Abbotsford, British Columbia
Doosan equipment: DL420-3 and DL420-5 wheel loaders
Doosan dealer: Westerra Equipment
Ever wonder how mushrooms make their way into your dinner entree? You may picture people walking in a forest harvesting fungi off rotting logs or shaded marshy meadows. You probably don’t imagine heavy construction equipment.
The truth is, growing mushrooms en mass takes a lot more work than foraging a forest. Many steps and man-hours go into those hearty, earthy delicacies. Ask Zelko Fuduric. He is the general manager and facility director at Central Composting. His company in Abbotsford, British Columbia, oversees the mushroom production process for its parent company, Champs Mushrooms.
To grow any crop, the first step is to make sure you have the right nutrients and growing conditions. That’s where Central Composting comes in. Their main jobs are creating the compost to grow the mushrooms and transporting it to their underground farming locations.
The process starts by combining a variety of ingredients like straw and grass to start the compost mix. The materials are then brought to a commercial-grade mixing barrel to combine everything together. The mixer creates the substrate that will become great fertilizer for the mushrooms.
After employees make the compost to fertilize the mushrooms, the next step is to transport the compost to the farming tunnels. Zelko uses Doosan® DL420-3 and DL420-5 wheel loaders and buckets for this job.
HARSH CONDITIONS FOR MEN AND MACHINE
Since mushrooms are part of nature’s clean-up crew, it makes sense that their preferred growing environment isn’t glamorous. Mushrooms thrive in a damp, dark place with decomposing material that they can feed on. Central Composting creates the ideal setting with its tunnel farms — for the fungi.
But it makes things difficult for the crew and machines. The biggest challenge for the company’s 25 employees is the harsh environment in which they work and operate the machines.
Underground, there is enough shade and moisture to create the right growing conditions for mushrooms. Unfortunately, this process produces high amounts of ammonia. That makes for a tough environment for both the workers and the machines.
“It’s like having equipment in a salt mine,” Zelko says. “[The machines] corrode very, very rapidly. It’s like putting your car in a salt bath. The ammonia eats away at the metal. It eats away at the joints. It eats away at the electronics. So, the environment that we work in is extremely harsh.
“My guys all have to wear special monitors and masks. That’s why the biggest challenge is the actual working halls and the conditions of the equipment. Corrosion is a big part of that, so I need equipment that doesn’t fall apart.”
While the workers can wear protective gear, the machines are subjected to the damp, ammonia-filled environments. Zelko and his team must constantly keep up with maintenance to make sure the machines are ready to work. While routine maintenance helps to keep the machines running, anything beyond the basics is handled by their local dealer, Westerra Equipment.
“I’ve gotten to know pretty much all the management personally, and it’s an excellent group, professional when it comes to work,” Zelko says. “And I’ve become friends with quite a few of them, too.”
The harsh environment isn’t the only challenge for the crew. Often the team has long days, sometimes working 10- to 12-hour shifts six days a week. Because of this, another big factor in Zelko’s equipment is how it plays with his workers.
“So far, they like Doosan the best,” Zelko says. “Like they say, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Right? I’ve brought other equipment in just to have my guys run it and get a feel for comparison with others. We’ve had other machines here before I started buying Doosan. We had other wheel loaders from different manufacturers. The guys found that Doosan [was] a much better machine, much better to operate.”
A TASTY OUTCOME
After Zelko and his team lay the groundwork for the mushrooms to grow, they let the fungi do their thing. After harvesting the crop, Champs Mushrooms handles the rest. They package and distribute the mushrooms to grocery stores and restaurants.
The mushrooms grown are mainly portobellos, criminis and white buttons.
With their efficient process, they are able to roll out about one million pounds of mushrooms every week. Then the mushrooms are on their way toward
These mushrooms aren’t picked by hand in some serene forest. Instead, there’s a whole team of hard workers behind them. The next time a mushroom’s on your fork, think of people like Zelko Fuduric — and maybe a wheel loader or two.
See Zelko’s Doosan wheel loaders in action: na.DoosanEquipment.com/CentralComposting
Ready and Reliable
Working in extreme conditions means paying close attention to the equipment. Zelko Fuduric partners with his Doosan® equipment dealer, Westerra Equipment, to ensure that the machines are running properly. Zelko says he appreciates the availability of parts from his local dealer. And he is thankful for the knowledgeable service staff.
“The equipment is very reliable,” Zelko says. “They start every time we need them with very minimal breakdowns.”
See Zelko's Doosan wheel loaders in action:
The equipment is very reliable. They start every time we need them with very minimal breakdowns.