While starting your mushroom farm, look for a place with nutrient-rich ground, owing to which your mushrooms will grow the healthiest in just 3-4 weeks. Getting a supplier to bring you spawn for the sterile culture will be easier and cheaper. Preparing a substrate in the form of straws for the mushrooms is highly important as well as the processes that follow: incubation, fruiting, and harvest.
Is a mushroom farm actually worth investing into as a business and if so, how does one start it?
We’ll explain how mushroom farms actually work; the equipment, materials and farming produce you need for the farm to yield a healthy product, and discuss the process of taking care of your farm step by step.
How Do Mushroom Farms Work?
Mushrooms are a type of fungus that grow in organic material. According to Mushroom Council, they usually take 3-4 weeks to grow, also depending on how well you take care of them and the type of soil they’re provided plus what species of mushroom they are. The process of growing them and profiting from the produce is mushroom farming.
Why is Mushroom Farming Beneficial as a Business?
Mushroom Farms are a convenient form of entrepreneurial activity as it requires very less time to grow and harvest the mushrooms and the profit margin is very high if you expand the business. Plus, because of the market concentration any new entrants into the mushroom farming business will not face any significant barriers to entry.
How Much Land and Finances Do I Need for my Mushroom Farm?
This depends on how much you want to produce; 500 square feet can produce approximately 11,000 pounds of mushrooms annually, incurring the start-up cost of $8000-$50,000.
The land itself does not cost much, however, the equipment, chemical fertilizers, nutrients and acquiring the spawn substrate will amount for most of the cost. If you’re producing in the vicinity of your own home the real estate acquisition costs will be neglected.
How Do I Know Which Materials to Get for the Mushroom Farm?
As equipment you need manure and wood chips/straw (your choice of substrate), a compost mix (with fertilizers of your choice), the ready-made spawn (mycelium) from the supplier, plastic bags for incubation, a darkroom light, and nitrogen-based supplements.
Where Do I Get those Materials from?
Most of these materials for example composting mix, fertilizers, nitrogen-based supplements and the manure can be easily found at your local farmer’s market. A darkroom light can be bought from any electrical or utilities shop and the already made mycelium can be acquired through suppliers who already have refrigerated spores to sell at a reasonable price.
How Do I Choose Which Kind of Mushrooms to Grow?
From the 3 basic kinds of mushrooms; shiitake, Portobello and oyster, the oyster and Portobello mushrooms are taken at a higher face value by restaurants specializing in mushroom based delicacies and dishes according to Grocycle. Shiitake is mainly used by domestic households and small-scale food joints in their dishes. If you want a higher revenue, we suggest going for crimini or oyster mushrooms.
Do I Need more people on board if I want to expand the mushroom farming business?
If you’re planning to keep the mushroom farm confined to the parameter of your own home then a team isn’t necessary, we’d advise you hire 1-2 professionals with enough experience in the field to help you in the starting phases of your business. An expansion to other fields or sites however will require a larger team of people from respective areas of expertise.
How Do I start Producing my Mushrooms?
There’s 3 steps to starting the mushroom production on your now-ready farm:
- Spawn acquisition: According to Profitable Plants, if you don’t have a supplier you can create your own by using sterile culture to produce the spores (mycelium).
- Substrate preparation: Chop your wood chips or straw into tiny inch sized pieces, then boil it in water for about 40 minutes and take it out to set on a sterile surface to cool down.
- Incubation: Prepare plastic bags (make holes for ventilation) with the spawn and small amounts of straw, then tightly close the bag. Now put your zip-locked bags onto a shelf and use the darkroom light to make sure the room is void of all natural light. When you notice small mushrooms poking out from the holes then move on to fruiting.
What Is Fruiting and How Do I Do It?
Fruiting is a 16-22 days’ process in which you put the plastic bags filled with mushroom culture and straws into a room with very high levels of humidity and natural light to shock your mushrooms into growth. For fruiting you must switch between putting the mushrooms into a cool and then a humid room to allow for growth, then cut the bag altogether to allow for free growth.
How to Harvest:
If you notice your mushroom caps starting to grow and uncurl, that’s the perfect time to harvest them by pulling from the base and twisting off the stem as near to the ground (or the shelf, wherever they’re growing). This can easily be done manually by a single person or two if you want to be done quicker.
Packaging and Advertising Your Product to Sell in the Market:
Since mushrooms have a shelf life of 3-4 days, it would be best to package it quickly to go sell at the market. Your target audience should be local restaurant owners who are looking for local mushroom farmers to buy produce from instead of going to the city market. The best method of advertising is either social media or informing the vendors beforehand.
What Other Things Do I Need to Look Out for?
According to Small Biz Trends, the water used for farming should be clean and not contaminated, the workers should not carry things with them which hold a high chance of contaminating the farming site, and the compost should be prepared carefully as per to avoid wild mushroom spore contamination.