Reece and Erin Villier, originally from Geraldton, Western Australia embarked on a unique journey that led to the establishment of Dead Wood Mushrooms in Pemberton. With Reece having a background in electrical contracting and project management and Erin’s background being in real estate, their careers took a different turn with their tree change move to Pemberton in late 2022.
In June 2023, Reece and Erin, along with their three children - Esther, James, and Mabel - started Dead Wood Mushrooms. This endeavour marked a significant direction change from Reece’s currently operating electrical contracting business, with this “side hustle” transitioning them into the world of agricultural and horticultural entrepreneurship. During this time, they have increased production from 2kg to 20kg of fresh gourmet mushrooms a week.
Reece's inspiration for mushroom cultivation came from a friend who introduced him to the fascinating process. Intrigued by the idea and the potential it held, Reece and Erin decided to give it a shot. Mushrooms offered an attractive avenue into the agricultural industry without requiring a substantial initial investment.
What sets Dead Wood Mushrooms apart is the hands-on approach of Reece and Erin, who personally oversee every aspect of the operation. From mixing the substrate, inoculating, incubating, and fruiting, to packing and hand-delivering the mushrooms to local restaurants, they are deeply involved in every step of the process. Quality is paramount for them, and they are committed to delivering a product that everyone can enjoy.
Reece and Erin are self-taught in the art of mushroom cultivation, relying on resources like YouTube, books, and online content. They embrace a "sink or swim" attitude, continually seeking knowledge through many avenues including podcasts and putting new ideas into practice.
Dead Wood Mushrooms operates on a rented farm property in Pemberton. They use Jarrah sawdust and add nutrition to create a substrate, which is packed into grow bags. The grow bags are then pressure steamed at 121 degrees Celsius at 15 PSI to kill off any competing bacteria or fungi, therefore giving the mycelium the best chance to colonise the bags. Once that process has been completed the bags are then moved into a lab and inoculated with mycelium from specific fungi species. The bags are sealed and stored in an incubation room at 21 degrees for anywhere between 2-16 weeks. Once the bags are fully colonised with mycelium they are moved into a humidity, temperature and light controlled room and cut open to allow the mycelium to grow the mushroom fruiting body. The harvested mushrooms can yield multiple flushes over three weeks. Waste is a minimum as spent substrate is repurposed into a low nitrogen compost. With the exception of the grow bags, Dead Wood Mushrooms have created a sustainable, closed-loop system.
Dead Wood Mushrooms cultivates a variety of mushroom types, including Blue Shimeji Oyster, Pearl Oyster, Butterscotch Oyster, Black King Pearl Oyster, Swordbelt and Lion’s Mane. Throughout summer they add to this list and grow vibrant Pink Oyster and Yellow Oyster mushrooms that prefer the warmer temperatures.
In addition to supplying restaurants throughout the Southern Forests and Margaret River regions, they offer grow kits for those interested in cultivating mushrooms at home and mushroom compost for keen horticulturists. Keep a lookout at the Manjimup Farmers Markets and Dead Wood Mushrooms social pages for when these come up for sale.
Challenges for Reece and Erin include distribution logistics and high power costs during the summer months, as maintaining humidity and temperature-controlled environments for the mushrooms isn’t cheap. Nonetheless, Reece has major aspirations of Dead Wood Mushrooms becoming Western Australia's largest gourmet mushroom producer. They plan to scale production significantly of the next year, aiming for around 100 kg of fresh mushrooms per week and 400-500 kg of mushroom compost per week. Exploring new products, such as utilising mushrooms for livestock feed, is also on the horizon.
Dead Wood Mushrooms is open to collaborations and participation in events like the Warren Agricultural Society Show and Truffle Kerfuffle. They are keen to establish supply partnerships with local businesses for exciting projects and menu offerings.
Reece's favourite mushroom recipe is a Japanese style bacon wrapped shimeji mushroom kushiyaki, and he also enjoys simply chopping them up and frying to serve on top of steak.
As they continue to grow and innovate, Dead Wood Mushrooms is set to make a significant mark on Western Australia's gourmet mushroom scene. For updates and more information, you can visit their website (coming soon) or follow them on social media.