| 12.5°C Belfast

Mushroom industry vies for £2m facility after firm goes bust

Mushroom companies on either side of the border are eyeing up a £2m growing and packaging facility in Co Armagh which has gone on the market.

The modern factory near Markethill was built on the Ratarnet Road just under four years ago by brothers Jonathan and David McKew, who ran Button Farm Mushrooms.

They invested heavily in a new, purpose-built unit with the help of the Northern Ireland Growth Loan Fund, with the goal of producing GMO (genetically modified organism) free mushrooms.

But PwC was appointed as administrator to Button Farm in October, saying that the business had been hit by a combination of poor-quality compost and the loss of a key customer.

It's understood the mushroom firm went under owing over £1m.

David McNellis of Lisney said the facility had gone on the market on Friday and had already drawn interest from companies on either side of the border.

"From our perspective we're really just pushing it out there into the market and assessing what the appetite is and then we'll negotiate from there," he said.

Weekly Business Digest

Margaret Canning’s selection of the must-read business stories straight to your inbox every Tuesday morning

This field is required

"The mushroom industry sits on both sides of the border and earlier indications are that we have expressions of interest coming from companies that are well established in that industry.

Describing the listing as "rare", he said: "This has been developed on a bespoke basis for that industry as opposed to some of the other facilities that are probably converted agricultural. So it is certainly quite unique."

The listing on Lisney shows the facility as sitting right next to a family home, which is not part of the sale. However the agent said that further lands in close proximity to the subject may become available for purchase.

Almost 40 jobs were lost at the site when PwC was appointed as administrator.

It was reported as owing just over £250,000 to the Northern Ireland Growth Loan Fund and around £660,000 to Bank of Ireland.

Unsecured creditors were owed a total of £356,000.

The three-acre site is three miles from Markethill.

Lisney has confirmed that over £2m was invested in the plant, which has six growing tunnels.