Lennart Prinz, known more commonly as Lenny, grows exotic organic mushrooms in the beautiful Waikato town of Raglan. He sells his mushrooms at the local farmer’s market, via a distributor onto cruise ships and into some supermarkets, cafes and restaurants. But it hasn’t been an easy road.

In 2010, earning a living from growing mushrooms was still a dream for Lenny, whose fascination with mushroom cultivation started whilst away on his European OE, doing a semester of study for his degree in film and psychology in Germany.

Just when the study was getting all too much, he was given a book on permaculture. There was a chapter on mushrooms and the history of their use in Europe. Already a big fan of mushrooms personally, this “spawned” the start of Lenny’s farming journey. Lenny identified that in New Zealand the range of mushrooms is limited to what is on offer at the supermarket and some Asian stores in the bigger cities, and that there was a gap in the market for him.
Setting up a commercial mushroom growing business in New Zealand was not straightforward. Due to New Zealand’s strict bio security regulations, importing new strains from overseas is almost impossible, so Lenny focuses heavily on what’s available locally and what naturally grows in the wild here.
Lenny sprouts his “mushies” in big sacks filled with a mixture of damp straw, minerals, and chopped-up locally grown gorse. In order to keep the mushrooms free of contaminants, he hangs them from hooks inside a sealed insulated “clean” room.

Sustainable NZ grown mushrooms

That’s where Junk Run came in. Several years ago, waste management and rubbish removal specialists Junk Run were hired to take away the left-over retail and shop fittings left behind by an outgoing tenant in an Auckland waterfront location. Junk Run had done a recce before the job commenced at the busy convenience store to work on reallocating and repurposing as much of the waste as possible – which is key to their business model. It was then that Junk Run realised there were many large insulated 2m by 1.8m and 100mm thick commercial chiller panels used for walk-in fridges insulated with polystyrene – and two enormous doors that were potentially going to end up in landfill.

After some clever detective work through Extreme Waste in Raglan – Lenny was contacted by CEO Fionna Gotts and Junk Run and offered him the lot… for free. For Lenny this was like winning the lotto, as cash was so tight.

The deal was done at 4.30am one dark wet winter morning. Lenny and his friend arrived from Raglan in a hired truck. He came bearing gifts, including his home-grown mushrooms, smoked garlic, fresh eggs and a few bottles of his chilli sauce which got shared amongst the team. He parked up on the pavement on the Waterfront, uplifted the panels, and with the help of the Junk Run lads loaded his truck and then headed back home at 7am to start construction work.