Making history: American Truffle Company’s Chief Scientist Dr. Paul Thomas has harvested the FIRST EVER cultivated British truffle.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 2015
Making history: American Truffle Company’s Chief Scientist Dr. Paul Thomas has harvested the FIRST EVER cultivated British truffle.Napa, CA – March 2015 –The BBC and other leading news outlets have featured American Truffle Company’s (ATC) Chief Scientist Dr. Paul Thomas in perhaps the most significant news in the truffle world in generations: the first commercially farmed truffle using the scientific methods that he developed was just harvested in the UK.Dr. Paul Thomas, who is based in the UK and conducts ongoing research on truffles, created the highly rigorous scientific methods for black European truffle cultivation practiced by ATC. He has had harvests with partner orchards in Spain and Australia, but this harvest in the UK is significant because it’s the first successful British farmed truffle orchard. The Brits are ecstatic and Dr. Thomas believes this is the start of a whole new agricultural industry.
It’s also particularly significant for ATC since Dr. Thomas has been actively applying his scientific methodologies with ATC partner-growers here in the US beginning just two years after the first UK orchard was established six years ago. With Dr. Thomas’ scientific methodologies having been proven in the harsher and more difficult UK climate, ATC’s truffle orchards in the US have everything going for them. In fact, all growing signals and regular monitoring results for existing ATC orchards show that they are on track to produce truffles within the next two years.
About Cultivating the Black European Truffle
Truffles are a kind of underground mushroom that grow on the roots of particular host tree species, especially oaks and filberts. There are hundreds of species of truffles, but the fruiting body of some, most notably the European black Périgord truffles (Tuber melanosporum), harvested in the winter, and Burgundy truffles (Tuber aestivum/uncinatum), harvested in the summer, are highly prized by chefs and connoisseurs around the world for their exquisite flavor, and command exceedingly high prices. The black Périgord truffle, for example, often exceeds $1,000/lb.Unlike the white truffles of Italy, European black truffles can and have been cultivated for decades. Based on data calculated on average per acre for both chardonnay grapes and black truffles in full production, growing black truffles can be seven to ten times more profitable than growing grapes, yielding a profit of roughly $30,000-40,000 per acre, compared to about $3,600-5,000 per acre for grapes. This dramatic difference is due to the much higher revenue per acre from truffles, and considerably less labor and maintenance costs compared to grapes. Truffle orchards also continue to produce for 40-80 years, whereas grape vines often decline in productivity and must be replaced every few decades.These compelling economics explains why in France it is common for vineyards to rip out low producing vines and replace them with truffle-inoculated trees.
While there are many varieties of truffles, Dr. Thomas and ATC focus only on the two top European black species: Tuber melanosporum (black Périgord truffle) and Tuber aestivum/uncinatum (black Burgundy truffle).
About Dr. Paul Thomas
Dr. Paul Thomas submitted his PhD on signalling systems in plants, at the University of Sheffield in 2004. In 2004/2005, he received a grant from the White Rose Centre for Enterprise (WRCE) to commercialize the technology. WRCE put Dr. Thomas forward for the first series of BBC’s Dragons Den program (forerunner of “Shark Tank“, the American version on ABC), in which a deal was accepted with Simon Woodroffe (£75,000 for 25% of the business). However, after filming Dr. Thomas decided that the investment wasn’t right for him and his business and withdrew from the offer.Dr. Thomas now works on truffles full-time, has the largest network of truffle sites world-wide, regularly presents at international academic conferences and publishes papers on all aspects of truffle biology.
Dr. Paul Thomas’ “Finding the UK Truffle” StoryOn a cold day in rural Leicestershire, Dr. Paul Thomas was checking on one of his UK truffle orchards, sites that he establishes in partnership with landowners and farmers. “The wind was cold as I walked to the first tree to take my annual root samples.” Dr. Thomas was in for a huge surprise, as when he pulled the grass aside, in front of him he found a large and very rare prize. “I was in complete shock! I jumped backwards, dropped my tools and ran back to the farmhouse. It felt like I had seen a ghost.” Moments later and out of breath, he returned with the landowner-farmers. Dr. Thomas then unearthed the first ever cultivated British truffle. “It was an incredible moment, we were all jumping around, it felt surreal’.
Having started 10 years ago, the English scientist is mad about truffles and his company grows truffles worldwide. This truffle find is incredibly important as it represents the birth of the British truffle industry and is a boon for science. “We made history,” says Dr. Thomas. “I’m thrilled. We need more growing partners now to help up raise the prominence/ reputation of the truffle industry to the level it deserves. This is a very, very good day!”
About American Truffle Company
ATC, established seven years ago by Robert Chang and Dr. Paul Thomas, applies rigorous scientific methods to grow truffles in partnership with landowners/farmers. For more information, visit www.americantruffle.com.Press Contact: [email protected]