A recent article in the UK Financial Times Magazine follows the truffle exploits of Joyce and her dog Maxwell in their truffle orchard near Edinburgh with Dr. Paul Thomas:
…In the field with Joyce and Maxwell is Paul Thomas, a scientist who has made the study of this elusive fungus his life’s work, and the growing of them his business. Thomas is not the first person to recognize the truffle’s commercial potential. However, unlike his predecessors, he seems to have found a way to reliably cultivate them outside their native habitat of France, Italy and Spain … Thomas began publishing papers on subjects such as the effect of climate and the role of soil pH on truffle growth. In 2006, he received an email from Robert Chang, a former Yahoo executive and an early investor in Renren…Chang had first eaten truffles, shaved on top of tagliatelle tossed in butter, in Munich…”I thought, hey, this stuff is expensive and it’s addictive, I wonder if you can grow it:” The science of growing truffles, he found, was not in the public domain. He looked for someone who was actively doing research and flew to London to meet Thomas in a pub. “A one-hour meeting turned into a four-hour meeting.” Chang and Thomas resolved to do things their own way [by partnering] with clients, providing fungus-loaded saplings at near cost, as well as expertise, technical and product distribution as the [orchard] matured for free. In return, their firm, the American Truffle Company, would take about one-third of the profits once the [orchard] started fruiting. “… that changes the incentives very significantly,” Chang says. “We are very much invest in making sure that our client-partners actually produce truffles…as many truffles as their land will support.” Read more.