1. What are truffles?
Truffles are the fruiting bodies of ectomycorrhizal fungi which live on and around the roots of certain types of trees. Unlike other types of mushrooms which grow above ground and produce wind-dispersed spores, truffles fruit below ground, having evolved to produce strong chemical aromas when mature.
These aromas are a truffle adaption which attract and entice certain forest animals to locate and consume them. The truffle spores are dispersed through the forest when they pass through the animal’s digestive system.
2. What is ectomycorrhizal?
The term ectomycorrhizal is used to describe the combined host tree root/fungus structure of truffles and some species of mushroom. Mycorrhizas are the structures that enable the symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship between the host tree and the fungus to be formed. The fungus physically extends and enhances the tree root system’s ability to access soil trace elements, in particular phosphorous, and in exchange, the tree supplies the fungus with carbohydrate derived from photosynthesis, enabling truffle fruiting.
3. Which tree species are grown as truffle host trees?
Many different tree species can be used as truffle host trees. In Australia and New Zealand these have included: Hazel nut Corylus avellana, Common/English oak Quercus robur, Holm oak Quercus ilex, Turkey oak Quercus cerris, Stone pine Pinus pinea, Maritime pine Pinus maritimus and Pinus radiata.
4. Are all truffles the same?
No. Although there are many species of truffle only a small number are sought after for culinary use and have commercial value. These are Tuber magnatum Pico (Italian White), Tuber melanosporum Vitt. (Perigord Black), Tuber borchii Vitt.(Bianchetto) and Tuber aestivum Vitt. (Burgundy or summer truffle).
Although the many different species of truffle have broad similarities in the way they grow and collectively share some of the multiple volatile chemical compounds responsible for truffle aroma, there are also many significant differences between species. These include ecological range (climate/temperature), fruiting season, size, colour, appearance, aroma, taste, use and commercial value.
5. How big are truffles?
The average size range of Perigord black truffles is typically around 30-60g but very large fruiting bodies up to 1 Kg (150mm diameter) may occasionally be produced.
The average size range of bianchetto truffles is smaller, typically 5-20g (walnut to egg size), but exceptional fruiting bodies up to 140g (orange size) have also been produced.
6. How long does it take for a truffière to begin to produce truffles?
Under favourable conditions, Perigord black infected trees may begin to produce truffles in 4 to 5 years. but may take many more years. Bianchetto and Black Summer truffles may begin to produce after 3 to 4 years.
7. What size is the truffle market?
Due to declining European truffle yields and strong international demand, the global market for truffles is large. There is potential to export to multiple markets including from southern to northern hemispheres outside the European truffle season.
8. What is the Co-op?
The Nannup Truffle Growers Co-operative Limited’s primary activity is establishing and managing a Truffière; and facilitating member activities associated with the production and harvesting of truffles under a Share Farming Agreement with Nannup Truffle Farm Pty Ltd (the land owner).
The Share Farming Agreement provides for the arrangements between the Nannup Truffle Farm Pty Ltd and Nannup Truffle Growers Co-operative Limited, wherein Nannup Truffle Farm Pty Ltd will establish the Truffière, and provide farm related services for the initial 5 Years, after which the consideration will convert to a 25% share in the net proceeds from harvested truffles.
The proposed total term of the Share Farming Agreement will be for 20 years, as Truffières tend to decline in production at around this period, however, in the event that commercial yields are not achieved by the Truffière within 10 years, the Share Farming Agreement may terminate. Upon completion of the Term – all cash and liquid assets held in the Co-op will be distributed to members and all improvements on the land will vest to the Landowner.
9. What are the benefits of a Co-op?
Co-operatives operate under a different corporate legal regime. They are governed under State based legislation and have some quite different rules and requirements. The most important aspect is that Co-ops are people centred organisations that are owned and controlled by their members.
They exist for the main purpose of their members and members must contribute to the objectives of the Co-op.
10. Who controls the Co-op?
Unique to any other business structures Co-ops exist for the benefits of their members.
Each member is entitled to one vote in a Co-op – irrespective of how many shares are held.
Members will appoint a number of Directors, who are voted for at an AGM of members held annually.
Directors serve a 3 year term and are responsible to act for and on behalf of all members in the interest of the main purpose of the Co-op.
11. How much does a Co-op Share cost?
Each share subscribed for in the Co-op is equivalent to $1,500 per share, which is the equivalent to 6 trees.
12. Can I buy more than one Co-op Share?
Any member may purchase shares to a maximum proportion of 20% of the Co-operative Shares. However, under the Co-operative legislation, Co-ops have a one member – one vote rule – irrespective of the number of shares held.
Profits are of course distributed in accordance with shares held!
13. Can a business become a member?
Membership of the Co-op is available to Individuals, Companies or Superfunds and each entity must hold at least one share.
14. How long might it be before a dividend is released?
Truffières begin to produce truffles, under favorable conditions in Years 4 to 6 depending on the variety. Black Perigord truffles may begin to produce truffles in Year 4 and our expectation is that commercial quantities will not be produced until Year 6. We are forecasting a first dividend in Year 4 of 3%, increasing to 6% in Year 5, 11% in Year 6, 18% in Year 7 and 25% from Year 8.
15. Can I sell my Co-op Share?
You may wish to sell your Co-op share to a new member or existing members which requires approval from the Co-op, or the
Co-op may purchase a share at the request of a member. It is always our hope that if you will decide to sell you will have your share repurchased by a friend or family member.
16. How many Shares are available?
Our goal to operate the Co-op on a long-term economical basis is to sell a minimum 1000 shares, but the Cooperative is able to issue shares to the extent that we have land and trees available.
17. What is the extent of my liability as a Co-op Shareholder?
None! Your liability and risk is limited to your $1500 share cost. The Co-operative protects the individual investors from liability and financial risks associated with any business.
18. How will the finances of the Co-op be distributed for review?
The Co-op is required to provide Financial Reports, Directors Reports (and if required Auditor Reports) on an annual basis – which are provided to members together with a Notice of Annual General Meeting – which must be conducted within 5 months of the end of the financial year.
19. How do I collect my benefits?
Benefits of membership of the Co-op are across a number of facets:
- Dividends will be paid from profits as they are earned.
- 15% discount on Truffle Products is available to all members by quoting your membership number upon ordering on the Great Southern Truffles website.
- Truffle Dinners are organised and held by Great Southern Truffles throughout the truffle season. Invitations will be sent to all members and places will be on a first come basis.
- Truffle Hunts and accommodation in Truffle Chalets will be several years away – depending on production from the Truffière.
- The Co-op is planting a small proportion of White Spring and Black Summer truffles which produce earlier than Black Winter truffles – so we are hoping for early results from these varieties.
Upcoming Hunts will be communicated via our website and Facebook page – and again will be offered to members first and allocated on a first come basis.