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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

The Lab

  • This consists of a clean room, that uses a positively pressurised tent and several HEPA filters to scrub the air. 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 incubatingLiam in incubation room

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.

The Grow Rooms

This is where the mushrooms finally fruit.

  • Our grow rooms consist of three 20 foot insulated ‘reefer’ containers. Each container is capable of producing 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.
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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