Unicorn Expands
April 2003

The new Unicorn facility in Dallas

Lou Hsu of Unicorn Imp. and Mfg. Corp. (Unicorn) tells us that the firm is retaining its existing bag manufacturing facility in Commerce, Texas and expanding to a facility in Dallas, Texas (pictured). The expansion comes as overseas sales grow in the face of slower sales in the U.S., due to the stagnant economy here. Lou tells us he has been keeping his price stable even as resin prices have increased substantially in recent weeks. He is able to absorb this added production cost, for now, because he purchased large quantities of raw materials before the price increase. He is also offering a lower priced line of bags made from tubing that Unicorn imports from its facility in China. The lower-priced bags compete directly with other imported bags, but, Lou says, they are generally of higher quality. They are, however, less stress resistant and of more variable quality than the premium bags Lou produces from U.S. raw materials under his watchful eye in Texas.

In addition to expanding production capability in the U.S., the firm is expanding in Europe though an association with Peter Oei. Peter will be distributing Unicorn products to growers from Scandinavia to Italy and to the Eastern European countries and Russia. This will make Unicorn bags more competitively priced and more readily available to growers in that region. An association with FUNGISEM in Spain is leading to more sales of bagged substrate and a wide variety of mushroom spawn in the European Union.

Besides expanding geographically, Lou has expanded the firm's product line. In addition to micro-filter bags, that he also markets to the pharmaceutical industry, Unicorn now offers bags without filters that use separate stick-on filters. These are for producers who can afford the labor to punch out a hole in each bag and install a filter patch. He is also supplying bottles for bottle cultivation, machinery for automating a bottle operation, an automated bagging machine and laboratory supplies.

An association with Chikuma Kasei Corporation of Nagano, Japan allows Unicorn to offer discounted prices on all major brands of Japanese bottle machinery. Lou says that as soon as a market for bottle technology develops in the U.S. or other countries he will offer a turn-key system.

Bagging Machine

For farms that use more than 10,000 bags a week, Lou offers a machine that forms the bags from film, fills the bags with substrate and then seals them (pictured). Although the initial investment is significant (less than $35,000), there are operational savings. First, the film used to produce the bags comes with any of the Unicorn filters pre-installed and costs less than ready-made bags. Second, there will be considerable savings in labor since the machine can produce 8 to 10 bags per minute. As they leave the machine, the bags are already filled with substrate and are ready to autoclave.

Unicorn is also offering petri dishes (patent applied for) that have tight lids and are stacked as a portable unit in 10 or 20 dishes. These are designed for field collection of tissue cultures, transporting and mailing cultures. These dishes are autoclavable and reusable. They are made of clear polycarbonate.

Lou would like to see more exotic mushrooms being produced. In support of that goal, he has been working with Penn State University to enhance the Mushroom Industry Short Course and is promoting the course with inserts in this newsletter. Lou says this coming Short Course is different from the previous ones in several ways. There will be new speakers who will be talking about cultivation methods and processes in great detail. Those speakers will be generous with all the details and will answer all questions - or find the answers and relay those answers after the course. Lou Says: "There will be no such answers like 'This is a company secret.'."

Lou says that while there will be speakers from Japan and China their command of English will be such that participants will not have difficulty understanding them. Printed versions of the talks are also expected to be available. A variety of specialty mushrooms including nameko, maitake, enoki, and Agaricus blazei will be discussed. If there are more topics than the schedule will allow, Lou says that the authors will distribute printed material and be available to answer questions. Contact information for Lou and Unicorn Imp. and Mfg. Corp. is in Unicorn's advertisement.

Photos provided by Lou Hsu