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Making mushrooms

Here's a quick description of our mushroom production process
Brent in the lab with cultures on petri dish

Mushroom Production: The Lab

  • This consists of a clean room, that uses a positively pressurised tent and several HEPA filters to scrub the air.
  • In here we work our magic growing tissue cultures on Petri dishes of agar.
  • The other half of the lab is where we sterilise and store cultures used for inoculation.

Production of grain ‘spawn’

  • Once a petri dish has been fully colonised it can be transferred into jars of sterilised grain to make grain spawn.
  • The initial or spawn-master (a single jar), takes about 2 weeks to be colonised and can then be used to innoculate 6 new jars of 2nd generation spawn.
  • A single 2nd generation jar is then used to innoculate the final 2.5kg of sterilized grain spawn in a bag.
  • All of this process requires all materials to be sterilized in an autoclave.
  • We store the colonising spawn in incubators which are set to about 25 celsius. Once inoculated it generally takes about 3 weeks to fully colonise. 
Mushroom spawn on grain incubatinghow to grow mushrooms. After harvest care

Inoculation/Incubation area

This is an extension of the lab. It is the place where we make bulk substrate, inoculate it with the grain spawn, and where the ‘bags’ incubate.

  • Once a grow bag is made, Oyster mushrooms usually take about 2-4 weeks before the bag starts pinning.
  • However, shiitake can take longer than 3 months to incubate.
  • Once a bag starts pinning, we move them into the grow rooms.
  • The incubation area is well insulated. In the winter the heat generated from the colonising bags will warm the space so that only a small amount of supplemental heating is required.
  • Our bulk substrate is made from Pine wood pellets and Soy Hull. This is mixed with water to which we add some hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) to push the pH to about 12. This is done instead of pasteurisation or sterilisation but will inhibit the growth of undesirable things like mould or bacteria. 

The Grow Rooms

This is where the mushrooms finally fruit.

  • Our grow rooms consist of three 20-foot insulated ‘reefer’ containers. Each container can produce about 40kg of fresh mushrooms a week.
  • Lined in stainless steel and insulated, the containers can handle high humidity and maintain a fairly good temperature. 
  • We generally get about 4 flushes (harvests) from a bag before the yield decreases to the point we "retire" it.
  • Because we live in a fairly temperate climate we do not need to do much in the way of temperature control. In the winter we may need to add some heat to the Pink mushrooms to keep them active. For humidity, we use a high-pressure misting system.
Inside the grow roomsHarvesting oyster mushrooms

The Harvest

  • Once a bag starts pinning it only needs 5 days in the grow room until it’s ready for harvest.
  • To harvest, we gently pull and twist the entire cluster out.
  • Once a bag is harvested it will be dormant for a couple of weeks, and then start pinning again.
  • We repeat this cycle about 3 or 4 times until the yield goes down.
  • We then ‘retire’ the bag onto the compost heap where it will produce heat (as it decomposes).  This heat is used to warm the grow room in winter.
  • The plastic we keep and recycle ourselves. 
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