From seed to success: A Connected NI Journey with Hearty Growers

About the Case – Overview

The owner Terry Vaz's curiosity about growing oyster mushrooms sparked a remarkable business journey for Hearty Growers. The fact that there were fewer than six mushroom farmers in Northern Ireland presented Terry with an attractive market opportunity, which he took advantage of by launching his own mushroom farming business.

As a scale up, the client greatly benefitted from the support of Connected NI. The connections formed through the Belfast Met and Connected NI helped the company form relationships with the right resources, ranging from academics in food product development to consultant trainers skilled in emerging technologies. One such partnership was with Linda Tran, a food product development specialist, whose expertise helped diversify the client’s product range. Linda’s guidance led to the development of value-added products which now generate 40-45% of Hearty Grower’s revenue.

The collaboration with Connected NI and Belfast Met further paved the way for innovative solutions to manage the excess produce of Hearty Growers, which was initially given away due to a lack of storage. Through innovative techniques such as dehydration, they turned surplus into profit, added value to their products, increased their profitability, and grew their customer base.

Running a mushroom farming operation is energy-intensive, with electricity as the core input. The rising costs pushed the client to seek more efficient and sustainable energy sources. Connected NI and Belfast Met played a crucial role here as well. Belfast Met Consultant Trainer Mark McKee was instrumental in helping the client improve energy efficiency through research into emerging sensor technologies relevant to urban farming.

Through Connected NI, Hearty Growers plans on implementing sensor technology into its operations, with plans to start recycling thermal energy. This technology can not only provide real-time data but also helped the client to become more energy efficient. The integration with cloud management enables energy consumption in real-time, opening new avenues for efficiency improvement and better placing Hearty Growers at the forefront of agri-tech within Northern Ireland

I would wholeheartedly recommend the Connected programme and Belfast Met to any small business seeking impactful support. The progress we've made with Hearty Growers is a testament to their valuable assistance.