There are more and more people showing an interest in mushroom farming. The thoughts for always having access to their favorite mushrooms almost for free, might be their main reason to start this adventure. However, there are many other reasons to consider fungiculture as an activity, including helping the community or making medicine.
Table of Content
Why a Mushroom Farm is Worthy to Think About
It’s hard to find people who don’t like the taste of mushrooms and some varieties cost quite a lot, depending on where you live. Learning how to grow your own will give you access to an unlimited supply of this crop, thus saving you quite a bit of money.
Growing mushrooms can also be quite a fun or relaxing hobby. Additionally, one can expand their knowledge in a niche with which most folks are unfamiliar. Children might also be very interested in how mushrooms grow. There are people who say that fungiculture is time consuming and expensive, making the process not worth the effort. However this doesn’t have to be true, as there are ways to get a crop in as little as 2 weeks, with little spending and little work.
Another good reason to consider this activity is recycling. For instance coffee grounds are usually thrown away after you enjoyed your cup of joe, but did you know they can be used in growing mushrooms? Older cardboard or broken wood logs are other materials used for the purpose.
Other advantages to any mushroom lover when starting their own mini mushroom farm, is that they can get larger mushrooms. On top of this, their own mushrooms can be free of harmful chemicals, if enough attention is paid. Let’s not forget that growing a wider variety of mushrooms widens the cooking possibilities as well.
If you need to follow a strict diet, mushrooms are a good choice because they carry an important percentage of the daily dose of specific vitamins and minerals, such as 3 types of Vitamin B and Selenium. Exposing them to sunlight before or after harvest makes them transform ergosterol into Vitamin D, in a similar way the process takes place in the human body. The effect is stronger after harvest when studies showed that 5 minutes of exposure resulted in 4 times more than the daily recommended dose. Before harvest, 1 hour of UV exposure produced just a double quantity of the dose.
Stages of the Mushrooms Growing Cycle
Not everyone is aware that fungi are not plants, and as such they reproduce in a completely different manner. This is why hey also require a specific type of environment, as they don’t grow in pots. They can be grown both indoors and outdoors, but yet again, each location will require appropriate yet different conditions.
The mushrooms start out as spores and they need a very humid environment with a less humid substrate to develop well. The air must have a humidity between 95 and 100% while the substrate only about 75%. These levels must also be monitored for a proper development.
Their growth medium must provide them will all the nutrients they need. That medium is actually a compost that you buy or make yourself, though mushroom kits are the best solution for beginners. Light will play an important part later on in their development, when fruiting happens.
Steps to Start Your Own Mushroom Farm
There are a few steps to follow for a successful mushroom farm, as you can’t just dive in. However, before taking any of the steps mentioned below, remember to do further research on the topic. This is especially true if you want to turn the farm into a small business.
It’s equally important to learn more about each type of mushroom that can be grown in a farm, how can they be consumed or how sought after are they. If you consider fungiculture as a future business, be aware that the more mushrooms you can grow, the more you can profit. Reading a few more guides will teach you that oyster mushrooms are the easiest ones to look after and they yield really well too.
This activity can’t take off without an initial investment. For instance, you’ll have to rent some space maybe, buy some equipment, discover where can you get enough substrate, how much will it cost you, and so on.
Find a Space
You might think that growing mushrooms at home needs a lot of space, but in reality that’s not true. For instance all you need is to find or create a mushroom grow room with an area of 10 sqm, although anything smaller works just as good. In that much space you can grow about 10 kg, with just some 12 hours of total work.
Depending on where you live, you might find a good area in your own home, or you could even find something that you can rent for really cheap. A garage is a pretty good place to start for instance, though it will need a little bit of preparation beforehand, as we’ll learn later on.
It’s worth mentioning that there are main stages in the development of a mushroom, that we’ll also tackle a bit later. Each stage however, needs a separate area because the organism itself needs a different setting to properly evolve to reach the next stage.
Aside from the surface and the costs related to it, you should make sure that the space is not close to very polluted areas. Mushrooms will accumulate pollutants during their growth if exposure occurs. Heavy metals are the most common and dangerous such pollutants, rendering them just as dangerous as their non-edible counterparts.
Choose The Design
Choosing the design for the room when your mushrooms will grow is not totally set in stone. You’ll see that some people have a mushroom tent for the purpose. However, there are some things to remember before you start, based on the development stage. The design might also depend a bit on the mushrooms you decide on and on type of substrate you choose.
The design of the room should allow you easy control over the humidity and temperature. Indoor fungiculture includes a lot of trays and shelves, however, make sure you can easily reach all of them and that there’s enough space between them.
- Mixing & Inoculation
Inoculation is actually the starter culture. This is also called spawn. You’ll have to ensure the substrate is pasteurized – a process that removes harmful organisms through exposure to a high temperature. Some folks choose to only partially pasteurize, to let some beneficial microorganisms to survive.
The mixing and inoculation phase should not pose any problems, as it does not require any special conditions and can be done in any space you have that is available. This is the phase where the mushroom spawn is combined with the substrate ingredients to be ready for incubation. All you will need is a compost tumbler and workbench along with a room that can be easily cleaned and maintained.
There is something to pay attention to at this stage though. One has to weigh out correctly all the ingredients – substrate, fertilizer, and spawn. They must be mixed well and if there are any pucks or bigger chunks, they have to be broken down. When this mechanical process is over, it’s time to place the mixture into some container where the fungi can develop. Growing mushrooms in bags is the most popular method, though i t’s good to note that some farmers choose reusable containers as to minimize waste and even production costs.
The incubation stage entails letting the spawn grow in a dark, insulated room at around 20-24C. The space designated for incubation must be dark, and kept so for some 2 or 3 weeks depending on the type of edible fungi you chose. You can simply put the bags on shelves or rails, depending on their size. If the chosen room is not hot or cool enough, you may want to get a system that will keep the temperature stable and therefore use less energy.
The process at this stage is also called casing. At this point, the spawn start spreading in the compost and form mycelium. It’s nearly impossible to distinguish anything at this point, if you were to look in the substrate. It’s important to add nitrogen during this process, as it encourages pinning and will increase the number of mushrooms that form.
The incubation period releases a lot of carbon dioxide inside the growth medium. For indoor mushroom farming, this could be a big plastic bag that needs to be pieced. Only by piercing the barrier the next stage can be reached. If you use trays, you won’t need to create holes.
After incubation, you will move on to the fruiting stage where the greenhouse mushrooms are left in an area with fresh air, light and humidity which allows them to grow of ‘fruit’. Although this phase requires more thought, you can be creative when it comes to the set up: a wood frame with plastic sheets, an insulated fridge room or even a hydroponics tent could do the job.
The process taking place now is called pinning by some and lasts about 3 weeks. Paying attention to the temperature, a well as the levels of the humidity and CO2, is important if you want to obtain more or larger mushrooms.
Construct Your Farm
We mentioned that one can use single use or reusable containers as well. This one of the decisions you’ll have to make before starting. You should know there are farmers who use trays to grow their mushrooms, even for commercial purposes. According to some, this method is even more popular than the containers. You might find the harvest more easy by using trays.
We briefly mentioned earlier you can start growing mushrooms either indoors or outdoors. Each location will have different construction requirements. Most folks choosing the outdoors method don’t do it for commercial reasons. Backyard mushroom farming also involves wood logs that must be kept moist – sprinkling water on the logs would usually be enough. The logs would have to be placed in a shaded place.
Growing them indoors will provide you with a constant harvest, and thus higher chances to make a small income out of the activity. An outdoor farm is more dependent on the nature and you’ll possibly have more difficulties in growing a wide variety of mushrooms.
Deciding for an indoor mushroom facility means you’ll have to ensure the room has no windows. Controlling temperature and humidity is easier in a windowless room. Additionally, let’s not forget that the second stage requires darkness, which is that more easy to maintain without windows.
Not many folks are aware they can build an appropriate room for incubation with scrap materials, and only buy the pieces that they can’t find otherwise. At this stage the investment is minimum and the materials provide enough space for a few batches of mushrooms at once.
Your priority is to create a space where you can control the humidity, where insects can’t enter, but to which you have comfortable access when you need to. Glass panels are your best bet when it comes to creating a humid environment when you are not growing mushrooms for profit. You’ll then need a centrifugal humidifier – a piece that could be harder to come by or construct. It should hold between 2 and 4 liters of water per day.
Insects will stay out if you use some special netting. Place it on top and on the bottom of the chamber to provide good airflow. Place the humidifier at the top as not to use a fan, and use less energy.
There are several ways to control the temperature, and being with air conditioning. Smart placing of the mushroom room in your house, will eliminate the need for it. For instance, you might want to use the corner that receives least amount of sun, and apply further insulation.
Let’s Start Growing (The Low Tech Way)
Growing your own food is not rocket science, but it’s best to start small just in case you don’t see the activity as fit for you. The best method to use when starting on a small scale, is that of low tech. This means you don’t have to purchase big and expensive machineries used by large scale mushroom producers.
Those farmers use those machines to pasteurise their substrate. With the low tech method, the step is partially skipped as there are other solutions to reach the same result. For this reason, used coffee grounds is the most popular method, because the coffee grounds have already been exposed to high temperatures during coffee brewing.
Another option is using straws. These don’t need to be exposed to extremely high temperatures, on the contrary: a simple soak in a cold water bath with a high pH is more than enough. This is a method for those considering a harvest of hydroponic mushrooms.
A bit more research will definitely show you even more materials you can use in your substrate. Others choose to grow species of mushrooms that are fast growing and aggressive, whereas large producers might not.
There are several extra advantages to this type of growing mushrooms. Low tech allows you to learn the process really fast, helps with keeping your spendings on the low end as well, while being a really easy process from start to finish. Some say it will take a few hours to learn the basics for this type of fungiculture.
Harvesting & Selling Tips
Harvesting takes place when the mushrooms reach the maturity size. This process is repeated on cycles of 7 to 10 days and some refer to it as cropping. It involves snapping the mushrooms off the support they grew on.
Once you’ve grown your own mushrooms, you can start thinking about what to do with them. If you have too many, finding places interested in buying. There are quite many locations where you could sell mushrooms, such as restaurants or health stores. Check out reputable restaurants in your area and make a list of the best ones.
Good chefs will most likely be interested in purchasing fresh mushrooms from a direct supplier, and will be willing to pay what they are worth as well. For this purpose, Shiitake mushroom farming is a really good idea since these are a gourmet variety. Another idea is visiting health stores, as people who are focused on healthy eating, will be interested in locally grown, fresh mushrooms.
If you need more ideas, consider taking your mushrooms to nearby farmers markets. These markets have become increasingly popular over the past years due to the local and fresh produce offered by artisans, so you are highly likely to find customers there.
You could also try to sell your mushrooms online, on specific shopping sites that allow fresh produce to be commercialized. Having your own online store is another idea, and there are many platforms where you can easily get started with one.
Before deciding how much to sell your mushrooms for, check out the prices they go for in your country or area. Remember that different kinds of mushrooms have a different selling price, and some of them are more sought after than others, depending on the local cuisine. You can easily get an estimate on how much they sell for and contact places that are willing to pay the right price for locally grown, sustainable, premium quality produce.
Apart from selling mushrooms to directly to consumers or restaurants, there are a few more ways to generate income from your newly founded business. One of these ways is running your own workshop that teaches others how to grow mushrooms indoors and get initiated in the mushroom growing business.
If your cooking skills are well developed, bring your mushrooms to various food related festivals that take place in your city, and come up with some unique recipes. On top of this, cooking classes or workshops are yet another way to generate an in income.
Or, you can turn some of your mushrooms into dry snacks like tempura. Mushrooms are often used as a meat replacement in vegetarian diets, so you can make mushroom burgers that will delight the crowd.
If you know any charitable organization in your city, you can offer your mushroom growing skills and get funded by that particular association to give teaching lessons. They might even be interested in buying your produce at a good price.
At this point you should have enough information on how mushrooms grow and how easy it is to profit off of them. Additionally, you should now be able to make an informed decision regarding starting this type of activity. On a small scale, it’ not even expensive to start it and it can easily outgrow your original setting.
What you definitely shouldn’t ignore is trying out more ways of growing mushrooms. Following this advice is important for there is no standard method that will work for everyone. Some people went through several tries until they found the solution working best for them.