Sjaak Willems, CEO of Wilke BV
Born in 1957, as the youngest son of a Farmer’s family; it was a mixed farm with a small number of cattle, pigs and chicken for arable farming. The farm was in the middle of the small city of Kessel. Due to the expansion drift of the local government, they bought the farm of my father in the early sixties, so he could buy land to build a new farm outside the city, where there was more room for farming. In 1966 my father started to build a mushroom farm. Us children were the cheap labour on the farm. As children, we had to fill and empty the rooms. Also we learnt to harvest the mushrooms. This was my first experience with mushrooms. It was a mystery to me how it was possible that at first you couldn’t see any mushrooms and then only a few days later, you couldn’t harvest them quick enough to get them all down in the boxes.
After primary school I went to a high school for learning as a construction worker. Also I learned Electro techniques and Microelectronics. I only used this, in my work, as mushroom grower though. In the year 1978, after High school, I started working in a company which sends you out to different farmers who need help on the farm mostly for
filling in for labourers on sick or on holiday. I was chosen, for this work, because of my background, as son of a mushroom grower and my already established interests in mushrooms. What I learnt from this were, the many differences between the farms in their choice of and use of machinery, the climate systems, the effects of the seasons with weather changes, the casing, the spawning and the composts, etc.
They also sent me out to mushroom growers. On duty as a mushroom co-worker my interests, in mushrooms, and the how’s and why’s were lagging far behind the answers that most growers could give me. So I decided to go to the mushroom growing school, in Horst. This was a CCO Champignon technical school where I learned the real fundamentals of growing mushrooms. In my job as co-worker, I had to sometimes work on the mushroom farm of Frans’ father. He was always willing to do unusual things in growing where no other farmers were, so as you can imagine I could learn a lot there and always see something new and exciting. It was a nice place to be during the breaks, too. I sometimes went out for a horse-ride tour with Ans, Frans’ sister.
I worked for 4 years as co-worker and then I hired a 4000 square metre Mushroom farm for mechanical harvesting. In those days I had to pasteurize and do the conditioning on the farm. Phase 1 compost came on the farm from CNC. We filled up the rooms. I spent 1 week for the phase 1 process. After that week, I spawned the compost and ruffled the compost with the spawning machine and then pressed the compost smoothly in the beds. The beds were covered with paper, which I wetted every day to keep it moist so the spawn could run quickly. The spawn run duration was 14 days. Then I gave a soya supplement to the compost for extra nutrients and ruffled the soya supplement through the full grown compost. The day after I covered the compost with casing soil (a black pied mix). A week later, was the time to ruffle the casing soil. 3 days later I started the blowdown for mechanical harvesting. Within 3 days this gave me the best results. It was always looking good for there were not too many or too les pins. I harvested 3 flushes and the mushrooms were sold to the canary.
In 1985 I built a Mushroom farm of 4 rooms. Each room of 400 square metres. Also for mechanical harvesting. In the first 10 week schedule, in 1988, I could buy full grown compost from Heveco bv. In 1987 I expanded the farm with 2 more rooms of 400 square metres. In 1989 I expanded the farm again with 4 rooms of 400 square metres; with a total of ten rooms in the end.
Unfortunately, in 2007, a fire destroyed my whole farm. During that period when I was wondering how to rebuild a new farm I met Frans Steegh again at Panbo systems bv and he had good plans and uncommon ideas to help me, on the design of the farm. Frans and I discussed a lot about mushroom growing and the difficulties which I will have to face. In that time, we came to the conclusion that we can make the climate control programme a lot better. Frans made a programme and we tested it on my farm. In the end we came up with a complete new “mushroom growing climate programme” with an evaporation control programme and more. This was an exciting time.
Together with Frans, I started this Mushconnect website, because I believe if we can make an honest, trustworthy and safe environment where Mushroom growers, and others which are related to the mushroom industry, can find solutions to all kind of issues which are important to them. Eg. learning from each other by viewing my farm, or even visiting my farm for training courses. Also to meet up with other experts or other companies in the mushroom industry. We would like to connect you to us, so that you can find your answers., for together we shall definitely know more!
5995 RP Kessel
Sjaak: +31 (0)6 3830 9295
Frans: +31 (0)6 2291 9417