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Indoor Production

Mushroom cultivation at scale

Indoor growing requires several chambers that moderate temperature, humidity, light, and air flow to maintain an environment ideal for one or more mushroom species. The spaces used to grow mushrooms can be as small as a closet to a retrofitted room, garage, or basement, to a modified warehouse or a building specifically designed for mushroom growing.

After substrates are inoculated with spawn (see "Specialty Mushrooms" page), the material must first be incubated for the first 4 - 8 weeks in a place with consistent temperatures ideally in the 65 - 70 F range. During this stage of growth, the mycelium grows through the substrate and takes hold, drawing energy and nutrition from it.

Once this stage is complete, fruiting can occur, usually by moving the container to another space and changing temperature, humidity, light, and air flow. As the chart below shows, each species has its own needs for successful cultivating through the fruiting stage.

The table below includes some of the most commonly grown, but are not the only possible species. The most common commercial species includes Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) , Lions Mane (Hericium spp.), Chestnut (Pholiota Adiposa), King Trumpet (Pleurotus eryngii), and Maitake (Grifola frondosa)  Each are a decomposing fungi that are grown on a varying recipe typically containing a base of sawdust or wood pellets and some type of higher nitrogen supplement. When starting out, its important to consider the local sources of materials you can obtain and experiment to determine the best mixture.

Mushroom Species Oyster Shiitake Lions Mane Chestnut King Trumpet Maitake
Difficulty EASY EASY EASY MEDIUM MEDIUM HARD
Substrate Straw, supplemented sawdust/wood pellets supplemented sawdust/wood pellets supplemented sawdust/wood pellets supplemented sawdust/wood pellets supplemented sawdust/wood pellets supplemented sawdust/wood pellets
Incubation

 

65 - 75 F

3 - 4 weeks

65 - 75 F

7 - 8 weeks

65 - 75 F

3 - 4 weeks

65 - 75 F

3 - 4 weeks

65 - 75 F

3 - 6 weeks

65 - 75 F

4 - 6 weeks

Fruiting Blue 45 - 70 F

White 55 - 75 F

Yellow 60 - 75 F

Pink 70 - 80 F

 

Most strains 55 - 75 F Most strains

50 - 65 F

60 - 70 F Lower temps

45 - 55 F

60 - 70 F

 

When thinking about growing mushrooms it is important to know that most businesses do not do the entire process of cultivation in-house. Depending on the mission and goals of a cultivator, the involvement in each of these processes may change. There are three different sectors of the commercial mushroom industry:

  1. Spawn production
  2. Block and bag production
  3. Fruiting and sales

Each of these three sectors can require completely different infrastructure, skill levels, and contacts to operate successfully. As the small-scale specialty mushroom industry grows, there continues to be more specialization and focus for individual businesses. Some producers decide to engage with all three steps, while often producers will purchase spawn from a supplier, produce blocks or bags from it (#2), and then fruit and sell mushrooms. A third option is to purchase ready-to-fruit blocks and focus on fruiting and sales alone.

 

Decision Tool for Indoor Growing

The "Production Specs (A)" sheet helps you walk through the decsion points for your enterprise. Answering all these questions is part of your plan to submit if you are applying to the grant program.

The "Projection Calculator (B)" offers some idea of what production could look like. It is based on just the FRUITING ROOM portion of the production cycle, and based on supplemented sawdust blocks. If you are doing straw inoculation, the yield projections should be cut IN HALF.

NOTE: This is a BETA version, meaning we are testing and refining for use by growers looking to develop a cropping plan for indoor mushroom production. Your suggestions for improvement are appreciated!!!

CLICK ABOVE TO ACCESS TOOL

(make a copy of the sheet and rename it to use)

Growing the Specialty Mushroom Industry in the Northeast

In partnership with FUNGI ALLY, we are supporting new and existing growers to increase mushroom production through a grant from NE-SARE. Together, we are creating educational materials and resources, including two new guide books:

These color booklets can be downloaded for free at: https://fungially.com/growing-mushrooms

A web-ready version of each chapter is in production and will be available SPRING 2020 at this website.

In February 2020, a three part webinar series summarizes key considerations for starting a mushroom business. See the recordings below! After the webinars, growers who are ready for production can apply for ongoing consulting support as they develop a business that aims to grow at least 900 lbs in 2020. Attendance at webinars, and completion of an application are required.

Complete details for the project, as well as an email sign up to receive updates, can be found here:

https://fungially.com/growing-mushrooms/

This project is available for the following states: CT, ME, NH, VT, MA, NY, PA, NJ, NY, DE, MD, RI, WV, DC

This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, through the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program under subaward number LNE19-376.

Production Research

In order to support mushroom growers, we are engaging with a multi-year production research project that will examine indoor production systems at multiple scales:

 

Mini Mushroom Chambers

In 2019, project partners (Cornell Small Farms, CCE Harvest NY, Just Food, Grow NYC, and Farm School NYC) met and discussed the challenges to demonstrating small scale units that could be built to maintain the light, humidity, airflow, and temperature conditions needed to fruit speciality mushrooms indoors.

As a result of clarifying goals and constraints we have developed a basic prototype of a unit that is 2’ x 4’ x 6’and contains one rack capable of producing 5 - 10 lbs per week.

We are currently prototyping three units; one at Cornell's main campus, on at the Equicenter project for Veterans in Ag, and one with Seeds to Soil in New York City.

 

Goals for the Design:

  1. Portable: walls and parts can be disassembled and moved to a new location with a small truck/van
  2. Accessible: All the components can be found at local hardware stores or ordered online and assembled by anyone.
  3. Consistent: The unit offers a consistent growing environment for mushroom production
  4. Affordable: Ideally keeping the cost around $500 - $600, which can be recouped after 6 - 8 months of growing at least 5 lbs/week
  5. Adaptable: The design concept and materials allow for changes to be made to fit different contexts
  6. Open Source: The complete design and construction plans will be made available to the public to replicate and adapt

The unit is designed to provide good conditions in the fruiting phase, and can handle about 40 ready-to-fruit sawdust blocks which can be purchased for $5 - 8 per block from a supplier. Getting blocks from a supplier eliminates the need for more infrastructure and skill, and is a good way to start out trying to grow mushrooms.

Each week, 8 - 10 blocks are added to the unit, and older blocks removed for composting. Each block should produce between 1 - 3 lbs of mushrooms, yielding in the range of $10 - $30 in value. If a grower wants to also inoculate raw materials (straw or sawdust blocks) onsite, they could build a second chamber of a similar size to this one.

Once we have a successful design implemented, complete project plans, budget costs, and materials lists will be offered to the public as a free resource.

 

Containerized Research

Indoor growers often compile various resources and construct incubation and fruiting chambers in a wide range of places, including basements, garages, old barns and milking parlous, stand alone buildings, sheds, and shipping containers. Our current research seeks to optimize containerized production by better understanding three main things:

1) What are the material and infrastructure needs and costs for incubation and fruiting chambers?

2) How much labor cost is associated with low-tech methods of production (straw bags vs. ready-to-fruit-blocks)?

3) What are the average production values for different methods per cubic foot? (straw bags vs. supplemented sawdust blocks)

Trials are currently underway at Cornell campus, and we will also collect supplemental data directly from growers as part of a project with Fungi Ally: https://fungially.com/growing-mushrooms/

Results of these efforts will give growers some numbers to work with when developing production plans and enterprise budgets. We also aim to aid decision making around the many choices in materials and infrastructure growers must consider.

You can keep up to date on the latest by joining our email list as well as attending our monthly live webinar series.

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