Mushroom farming is an ideal business if you’d like to start making profits shortly after setting up your operation. Here are four main steps that you will need to follow when you start your mushroom farm:
Spawn and Substrate
The first step is to obtain a spawn that is ready to inoculate. This can be purchased from online suppliers that offer various varieties. While producing your own spawn is an option, it won’t get you up and running as fast and involves more initial capital.
You’ll also need a substrate. Straw is an ideal substrate to use for mushroom farming as it is inexpensive, nutritious and easy to chop. You should be able to find some at a local farm or marketplace. You can also purchase bags online that have already been cleaned, cut and pasteurized. If you do purchase straw that hasn’t been broken down, you will need to boil it to remove any contaminants.
For pasteurization, it’s best to use a clean 55-gallon drum with a consistent source of heat. Propane burners are ideal for this step. If you are working with a large amount of straw, chop it down by using a lawnmower or wood chipper. Next, add water to the drum until it is 50 percent full. Take your straw and place it in a laundry bag and submerge it in the water. You’ll need to heat the water to a temperature that’s no lower than 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The straw will be thoroughly cleaned after one hour.
Let your straw cool so that it has a temperature that’s lower than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread your pasteurized straw out on a clean surface and thoroughly mix in small pieces of mushroom spawn so that they are evenly distributed throughout the straw. After mixing, fill food grade plastic bags with the mixture — oven bags work well. When filling each bag, make sure each bag is full but not extremely tight. Push as much air out of each bag as you can and secure the opening with a twist tie. Next, take a sharp object and poke holes in the bag so that they are a couple of inches apart. This will allow mushrooms to grow out of each hole.
Incubation and Fruiting
For incubation, you’ll hang the bags in a growing area that is cool and dark. An ideal temperature is typically between 65 to 75 degrees for most species of mushrooms. The incubation period will take between 2 to 8 weeks. During this time, it’s important to not let any light enter the growing area. You should also make sure that the straw in each bag stays somewhat moist. If it gets too dry, mist it with some purified water.
Fruiting will occur when you see tiny mushrooms pop out of each hole. At that point, you can provide them with some light. After they grow to the proper size, harvest them and place each bag back in complete darkness for another round of incubation. You can continue this process until mushrooms stop growing or mold develops.
Once you’ve harvested your mushrooms, you can enjoy them yourself or sell them to restaurants or at a local farmers market.
Jim Treebold is a North Carolina based writer. He lives by the mantra of “Learn 1 new thing each day”! Jim loves to write, read, pedal around on his electric bike and dream of big things. Drop him a line if you like his writing, he loves hearing from his readers!