According to Polish media and Kania’s Facebook page, Mr Karol Kania (80), the founder of the biggest compost plant in Poland, Karol Kania I Synowie, has died Monday night in a helicopter crash near Pszczyna in Poland.
Returning home from a visit to Mazuria, the private helicopter, a Bell429, crashed around 01.00 in Studzienice near Pszczyna in thick fog while trying to land, according to Gazeta Wyborcza. The pilot, a longtime employee of the firm, also perished, while two passengers in the back were taken to hospital.
In the past decennia, Karol Kania & Sons paved the way for many others and influenced the compost and mushroom production, becoming in time the biggest composting plant in Poland with the longest and most consistent history.
Mr Kania’s mushroom story starts with a biology lesson and a teacher who did an experiment with growing mushrooms. Growing up on a farm, he brought some horse manure and after a few weeks the first mushrooms appeared in wooden trays under the school stairs. Shortly after, he started to grow mushrooms, first in a henhouse of his father-in-law, and distributed them to local restaurants on his bike. In 1967 he decided to build his first mushroom farm in Piasek. In that year he met scientist Krystian Szudyga, the leading expert for mushroom and compost production in Poland who. At that time the availability and quality of horse manure for compost production in Poland deteriorated and growers were looking for alternatives. Kania decided to try on the new composting technology based on chicken manure developed by Szudyga in the research centre in Skierniewice, and started producing his own compost and soon did the same for other mushroom growers.
The company kept growing, and in 1988 the farm in Piasek was converted into the phase II tunnels where compost in blocks was produced. These years the south of Poland, especially the region of Pszczyna, became the ‘Silicon Valley’ of mushroom production.
Composting technology was always the main thing for Kania. Following in Szudyga’s foodsteps, he started to travel and learn from other countries. The Kania company is now using its own technology and equipment and their unique production technology perfectly fits to the local conditions and raw materials and allows to produce high quality compost all year. The expansion of the company was also the result of careful calculations regarding the availability of raw materials. The Pawlowiczki region, where the second plant has been build in 1994 is known for the best straw quality. The same applies to the most modern of the company’s locations – Dębowa Kłoda, built in 2009. Buying straw for compost production and in order not to discourage the farmers from supplying straw, Kania start buying the excess of it and produce pellets for heating. That’s was the idea behind building the factory in Pawlowiczki in 2011, that produces pellet under the brand name Greenel.
Nowadays the company, a real family business, operates in all three locations and employs all together ca. 500 people.
When interviewed for Mushroom Business in 2017, the year of the 50 year jubilee, Mr Kania was asked for the main reason for his enormous success; “You need to trust people and treat them well”. It was his hard work, determination, managerial talent, friendliness and continuous focus on quality, that made him one of the most respected and influential people in the international mushroom industry during all these long years. He will be dearly missed by many.
In the picture, taken in 2017, Mr Kania is surrounded on stage with his family during the 50 year jubilee.