Evaluation of Electrolyzed Water as a Low-Cost, Organic Method to Reduce Contamination in Indoor Production of Gourmet Mushrooms

Final report for FNE19-916

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2019: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 04/15/2020
Grant Recipient: Fat Moon Mushrooms
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
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Project Information

Summary:

This project sought to determine if spraying mushroom blocks with electrolyzed water would reduce contamination, thereby improving yields. In this experiment, the control group was sprayed daily with regular water and the test group was sprayed daily with electrolyzed water. The results indicated no difference in contamination rates or yields between the two groups. As a result of the lack of conclusive findings, the community outreach was cancelled. 

Project Objectives:

This project seeks to determine if new, affordable technology to produce Electrolyzed Water will result in a product effective for reducing contamination on mushrooms for small scale producers. Like other small-scale producers, the weather has a significant impact on production so the test will be repeated 8 times to account for variation in outside temperature and humidity.

In addition to testing the effectiveness of Electrolyzed Water, we will also evaluate three new systems for producing single-stream Electrolyzed Water. They vary in required inputs and consistency of output. These will be evaluated for ease of use, cost effectiveness, and reliability.

This project will also evaluate equipment for applying the water. Excess water sitting on mushrooms can cause deterioration so this project will review electrostatic sprayers which produce an ultrafine mist that thoroughly coats the surface while also evaporating quickly. Sprayers will be evaluated for ease of use, cost effectiveness, and reliability.

Finally, this information will be shared with other mushroom producers through a special event with the Toxics Use Reduction Institute and Lowell Center for Sustainable Production. While the equipment is being tested on mushrooms, Electrolyzed Water and electrostatic sprayers may have other applications for produce farmers.

Introduction:

“Organic mushroom production is particularly susceptible to attack by fungal and bacterial diseases and by fly infestations. These pests cause reductions in yield, quality and shelf life of the crop and seriously affect the economic viability of organic mushroom production.” David Beyer, Professor of Plant Pathology at Penn State University.

Mushrooms grow in a warm, humid environment which is also an ideal environment for numerous contaminants. The nutrient-rich grow blocks contain sawdust and grain, ideal hosts for competing molds and fungi. Clean blocks, free from contamination, are essential to high-yields, salable crops, and profitable production. Focus for addressing contamination issues has been at the stage of making the sawdust blocks. The next stage is keeping them free of contamination during the fruiting process. Preventing contamination is important because once a contaminant colonizes and sporulates on a grow block, it is difficult to completely eliminate the contaminant from the growing room. Contamination also reduces yields as the contaminant competes for resources.

As with all crops, the limitations imposed by organic standards reduce the options for preventative and curative treatments. Small-scale producers are further limited by their budget, so a low-tech, reliable, and inexpensive solution is ideal.

There is a movement in the Northeast to incorporate mushrooms into diversified vegetable farms. In order to do this successfully, farmers need affordable solutions to common challenges. Contamination is one of those challenges.

Research into contamination has focused on the pasteurization of grow medium prior to inoculation. Numerous studies explore steam, hot water, and cold pasteurization techniques. That is essential, but once clean grow blocks are open to the fresh air to induce fruit body production, they are susceptible to contamination. Finding a solution to contamination during production would be unique. In this experiment we will test the preventative treatment of exposed surfaces of grow blocks with a daily application of Electrolyzed Water (EW).

Electrolyzed water, also known as electrolyzed oxidizing water, is an OMRI-approved sanitizer approved for food contact. Electrolyzed water is generated on-site with a specially designed device that applies an electrical current to a solution of table salt, water, and vinegar (vinegar is optional, depending on desired solution.) According to OMRI “The resulting solution can be acidic, neutral or basic depending on the design of the specific generating device, and it contains an equilibrium of hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ions. It is the presence of hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ions that gives electrolyzed water solutions many of their sanitizing properties.”

In the article Electrolyzed Water as a Novel Sanitizer in the Food Industry: Current Trends and Future Perspectives Rahman discusses the chemistry of electrolyzed water and the numerous, diverse studies, all with favorable results. According to Rahman, “The application of EW is a sustainable and green concept and has several advantages over traditional cleaning systems including cost effectiveness, ease of application, effective disinfection, on-the-spot production, and safety for human beings and the environment. These features make it an appropriate sanitizing and cleaning system for use in… food processing environments.”

Examples of EW in agricultural applications:

– Foliar application on bedding plants to work as a fungicide in a greenhouse setting. Fungal diseases were reduced and plants were unharmed by the use of Electrolyzed Water.

– Reduction in E.Coli on sprouts

Examples of EW in mushroom production:

– Ding et al reported reduced bacterial loads from the application of Low Concentration Electrolyzed Water on oyster mushrooms.

– In 2003 Chikthimmah reported the findings of research to reduce contamination in mushrooms by irrigating with acidic electrolyzed water. This research reached a positive conclusion with the added benefit of an extended shelf life.

While the research to date has indicated Electrolyzed Water will yield favorable results, the application of it has been hindered by complexity and cost. In the aforementioned article by Rahman, it is stated “With recent technological advances, EW has gained popularity. Owing to these advantages, better equipment for producing EW is now available and EW has become a promising nonthermal disinfectant.”

In the past, low cost equipment yielded unpredictable results. If too much salt was added, the result was a solution with residual salt that damaged the mushrooms. If the concentration of a buffer was too low or non-existent, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) was produced, which would be equally damaging to the mushrooms.

More reliable devices created two streams (acidic electrolyzed water and basic electrolyzed water) and cost ten thousand dollars or more, meaning they were out of the price range of small producers.

Recently, new technology has been introduced that combines the two outputs into one product with both hypochlorous acid (disinfectant) and sodium hydroxide (cleaner.) This technology is reliable and affordable.

This proposal is to study the equipment that produces one stream (with hypochlorous acid and sodium hydroxide) to determine if this is an affordable, appropriately sized machine that provides a solution to reduce contamination for small-scale mushroom producers

CITATION LIST

What are common contaminants of the mushroom culture? Retrieved from http://en.psilosophy.info/what_are_common_contaminants_of_the_mushroom_culture.html

LaJeunesse, Sara (2017, December 6). Researchers Receive $950,000 to Develop Pest Controls for Organic Mushrooms. Retrieved from

https://news.psu.edu/story/497109/2017/12/06/research/researchers-receive-950000-develop-pest-controls-organic-mushrooms

Electrolyzed Water. Retrieved from https://www.omri.org/electrolyzed-water

Electrolyzed Water as a Novel Sanitizer in the Food Industry: Current Trends and Future Perspectives. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/1541-4337.12200

Evaluation of acidic electrolyzed water for phytotoxic symptoms on foliage and flowers of bedding plants

Page Crop Protection Volume 22, Issue 1 , February 2003, Pages 73-77 J. W. Buck, M. W. van Iersel, R. D. Oetting and Y.C. Hung

Sharma, R. R., and A. Demirci. 2003. Treatment of E. coli O157:H7 inoculated alfalfa seeds and sprouts with electrolyzed oxidizing water. Intl. J. Food Microbiol. 86:231-237

Ding, Tian & Rahman, S.M.E. & Oh, Deog-Hwan. (2011). Inhibitory effects of low concentration electrolyzed water and other sanitizers against foodborne pathogens on oyster mushroom. Food Control. 22. 318-322. 10.1016/j.foodcont.2010.07.030.

Chikthimmah, N., McMillen, J., Demirci, A., LaBorde, L. F., and Beelman, R. B. 2003. Electrolyzed oxidized water irrigation to reduce bacterial populations on fresh mushrooms. Abstracts of IFT Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL. Abstract No. 18922. http://ift.confex.com/ift/2003/techprogram/paper_18922.htm

Description of farm operation:

Elizabeth Almeida is the farmer and owner of Fat Moon Mushrooms. Fat Moon began as a diversified vegetable farm in 2011. In 2015, a transition was made from vegetables being distributed through a CSA to gourmet, organic mushrooms grown for local restaurants. In 2018, the business transitioned from being home-based to growing in a re-purposed mill building to increase capacity. This is Elizabeth’s full-time occupation, producing 200 – 500# per week, depending on the
season. There is increased demand in the spring/summer/fall because numerous local farms offer the mushrooms in their CSA and at their farmstands. The goal is to increase production to 700# per week, year-round.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Boce Zhang - Technical Advisor (Researcher)

Research

Materials and methods:

20 Shiitake Grow Blocks and 20 Blue Oyster Grow Blocks were fruited in the following months in 2019:

  • March 
  • April 
  • May 
  • June
  • July 
  • October
  • November
  • December

In this experiment, the control group, 10 of each of shiitake and oyster, was sprayed daily with tap water. The test group, 10 of each of shiitake and oyster, was sprayed with electrolyzed water. The mushrooms were harvested and weighed when they reached maturity. Contamination rates were documented daily. 

Contamination was tracked visually and recorded as: 

  • 0%
  • 0% – 10%
  • 10% – 30%
  • Over 30%

Three systems were tested for making electrolyzed water: 

Force of Nature – This system produces 12oz at a time and requires use of capsules that cost $1 each. This system is readily available on Amazon for $50. 

EcoOne – This system produces 1 liter at a time and uses salt and vinegar. This system is readily available on Amazon for $149. 

GenEon – This portable system can generate up to 5 gallons at a time using electrolytes that must be purchased from GenEon. This system must be purchased from a dealer and costs $2500. 

Each system produced electrolyzed water of 200 ppm chlorine, tested with chlorine test strips

Each system was used immediately upon receiving it. 

Two systems were tested for application: 

Force of Nature and Victory Innovations Electrostatic Sprayer – Only after purchase did we realize the two companies selling these sprayers are selling the same item.

Fuji Electrostatic Sprayer 

Sprayers were tested immediately upon receiving them and evaluated for ease of use in the grow room. 

 

 

 

Research results and discussion:

Contamination

Shiitake

Mar-19 31-Mar 1-Apr 2-Apr 3-Apr 4-Apr 5-Apr 6-Apr 7-Apr 8-Apr 9-Apr 10-Apr 11-Apr   Contamination Points Total
Rm T 65 65 65 66 60 60 60 60 60 65 65 65        
Rm Rh 85 80 85 85 60 60 80 80 80 60 83 85        
C02 level 850 850 850 850 850 850 850 850   850 850 850        
                                 
Control – H20                                

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 8         0 10  
<10% Cont                 2 10 10 10   10 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 90
Test – EO                                
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 2         0 10  
<10% Cont                 7 9 9 9   9 9  
10 – 30% Cont                 1 1 1 1   1 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 89
                                 
Apr-19 13-Apr 14-Apr 15-Apr 16-Apr 17-Apr 18-Apr 19-Apr 20-Apr 21-Apr 22-Apr 23-Apr 24-Apr        
Rm T 65 65 65 65 65 65 65 65 65 65 65          
Rm Rh 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90          
C02 level 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000          
                                 
Control – H20                                

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 9 7               0 10  
<10% Cont         1 3 10 10 10 10       10 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 90
Test – EO                                
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 5 0 0 0         0 10  
<10% Cont           5 10 10 10         10 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 90
                                 
May-19 10-May 11-May 12-May 13-May 14-May 15-May 16-May 17-May 18-May 19-May 20-May 21-May        
Rm T 68 68 68 68 68 68                    
Rm Rh 72 79 72 72 72 72                    
C02 level 950 1060 950 800 850 850                    
                                 
Control – H20                                

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 10 10               10 10  
<10% Cont                           0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 100
Test – EO                                
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 10               10 10  
<10% Cont                           0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 100
                                 
Jun-19 15-Jun 16-Jun 17-Jun 18-Jun 19-Jun 20-Jun 21-Jun 22-Jun 23-Jun 24-Jun 25-Jun 26-Jun        
Rm T 74 74 74 75 74 74                    
Rm Rh 85 84 87 85 85 84                    
C02 level 860 860 980 1020 1150 1270                    
                                 
Control – H20                                

No Contamination

10 10 7 5 3 0               0 10  
<10% Cont     3 5 7 10               10 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 90
Test – EO                                
No Contamination 10 10 7 5 5 3               3 10  
<10% Cont     1 3 2 4               4 9  
10 – 30% Cont     2 2 3 3               3 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 90
                                 
Jul-19 18-Jul 19-Jul 20-Jul 21-Jul 22-Jul 23-Jul 24-Jul 25-Jul 26-Jul 27-Jul 28-Jul 29-Jul        
Rm T 76 73 79 82 82 76 72 72 75 78 77 79        
Rm Rh 85 89 93 76 87 87 87 89 83 88 89 90        
C02 level 966 1006 1380 1080 914 905 916 1090 956 1020 916 890        
                                 
Control – H20                                

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 7 2 1             1 10  
<10% Cont         3 8 1             9 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 91
Test – EO                                
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 8 7 1           7 10  
<10% Cont           2 3             3 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 97
                                 
Oct-19 19-Oct 20-Oct 21-Oct 22-Oct 23-Oct 24-Oct 25-Oct 26-Oct 27-Oct 28-Oct 29-Oct 30-Oct        
Rm T 61 62 61 63 63 63 63 64 64 63 64 64        
Rm Rh 85 85 85 85 85 87 86 89 89 89 88 88        
C02 level 860 822 823 855 806 831 895 952 922 912 1030 980        
                                 
Control – H20                                

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 2 1   8 10  
<10% Cont                     2     2 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 98
Test – EO                                
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 2 1   8 10  
<10% Cont                     2     2 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 98
                                 
Nov-19 9-Nov 10-Nov 11-Nov 12-Nov 13-Nov 14-Nov 15-Nov 16-Nov 17-Nov 18-Nov 19-Nov 20-Nov        
Rm T 63 63 63 63 62 60 63 66 65 65 64 64        
Rm Rh 90 90 88 88 87 86 86 92 89 91 88 89        
C02 level 1010 1020 980 970 1010 899 895 902 918 920 1030 980        
                                 
Control – H20                                

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 9 3 1   8 10  
<10% Cont                     1 1   1 9  
10 – 30% Cont                   1 1 1   1 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 97
Test – EO                                
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 9 9 9 9 9 3     9 10  
<10% Cont           1 1 1 1         0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                   1 1     1 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 98
                                 
Dec-19 14-Dec 15-Dec 16-Dec 17-Dec 18-Dec 19-Dec 20-Dec 21-Dec 22-Dec 23-Dec 24-Dec 25-Dec        
Rm T 63 64 60 64 64 65                    
Rm Rh 95 94 91 93 92 97                    
C02 level 1100 950 1000 1090 1070 978                    
                                 
Control – H20                                

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 10 10               10 10  
<10% Cont                           0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 100
Test – EO                                
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10                 10 10  
<10% Cont                           0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                           0 8  
>30% Cont                           0 7 100

Oyster

Mar-19 31-Mar 1-Apr 2-Apr 3-Apr 4-Apr 5-Apr 6-Apr 7-Apr 8-Apr 9-Apr 10-Apr 11-Apr 12-Apr   Contamination

Points

Total Points
Rm T 65 65 65 66 60 60 60 60 60 65 65 65          
Rm Rh 85 80 85 85 60 60 80 80 80 60 83 85          
C02 level 850 850 850 850 850 850 850 850   850 850 850          
                                   
Control – H20                                  

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10           10 10  
<10% Cont                             0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 100
Test – EO                                  
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10           9 10  
<10% Cont                   1         1 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 99
                                   
Apr-19 15-Apr 16-Apr 17-Apr 18-Apr 19-Apr 20-Apr 21-Apr 22-Apr 23-Apr 24-Apr 25-Apr 26-Apr 27-Apr        
Rm T 65 65 65 65 65 65 65 65 65 65 65            
Rm Rh 75 75 68 66 90 90 90 90 90                
C02 level 1100 850 800 950 850 850 850 850 850 850 850            
                                   
Control – H20                                  

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10         10 10  
<10% Cont                             0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 100
Test – EO                                  
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 8         8 10  
<10% Cont                   2         2 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 98
                                   
May-19 9-May 10-May 11-May 12-May 13-May 14-May 15-May 16-May 17-May 18-May 19-May 20-May 21-May        
Rm T 62 68 68 68 68 68 68                    
Rm Rh 80 72 79 72 72 72 72                    
C02 level 837 950 1060 950 800 850 850                    
                                   
Control – H20                                  

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 10 10 10               10 10  
<10% Cont                             0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 100
Test – EO                                  
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 10 10               10 10  
<10% Cont                             0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 100
                                   
Jun-19 15-Jun 16-Jun 17-Jun 18-Jun 19-Jun 20-Jun 21-Jun 22-Jun 23-Jun 24-Jun 25-Jun 26-Jun 27-Jun        
Rm T 74 74 74 75 74 74                      
Rm Rh 85 84 87 85 85 84                      
C02 level 860 860 980 1020 1150 1270                      
                                   
Control – H20                                  

No Contamination

10 10 10 8 7 5                 5 10  
<10% Cont       2 2 1                 1 9  
10 – 30% Cont         1 4                 4 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 91
Test – EO                                  
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 7 7 4               4 10  
<10% Cont         3   1               3 9  
10 – 30% Cont           3                 3 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 91
                                   
Jul-19 19-Jul 20-Jul 21-Jul 22-Jul 23-Jul 24-Jul 25-Jul 26-Jul 27-Jul 28-Jul 29-Jul 30-Jul 31-Jul        
Rm T 73 79 82 82 76 72 72 75 78                
Rm Rh 89 93 76 87 87 87 89 83 88                
C02 level 1006 1380 1080 914 905 916 1090 956 1020                
                                   
Control – H20                                  

No Contamination

10 10 9 9 9 9                 9 10  
<10% Cont     1 1                     0 9  
10 – 30% Cont         1 1                 1 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 98
Test – EO                                  
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 10                 10 10  
<10% Cont                             0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 100
                                   
Oct-19 19-Oct 20-Oct 21-Oct 22-Oct 23-Oct 24-Oct 25-Oct 26-Oct 27-Oct 28-Oct 29-Oct 30-Oct 31-Oct        
Rm T 61 62 61 63 63 63 63 64 64 63 64 64 64        
Rm Rh 85 85 85 85 85 87 86 89 89 89 88 88 88        
C02 level 860 822 823 855 806 831 895 952 922 912 1030 980 980        
                                   
Control – H20                                  

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 5 5 5   5 10  
<10% Cont                     5 5 5   5 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 95
Test – EO                                  
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 5 5 5   5 10  
<10% Cont                     5 5 5   5 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 95
                                   
Nov-19 29-Nov 30-Nov 1-Dec 2-Dec 3-Dec 4-Dec 5-Dec 6-Dec 7-Dec 8-Dec 9-Dec 10-Dec 11-Dec        
Rm T 65 65 64 61 63 63 63 64 63 63              
Rm Rh 85 86 89 89 91 91 91 92 91 90              
C02 level 780 900 839 949 1090 1030 1120 1030 970 979              
                                   
Control – H20                                  

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 9         9 10  
<10% Cont                   1         1 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 99
Test – EO                                  
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10         10 10  
<10% Cont                             0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 100
                                   
Dec-19 14-Dec 15-Dec 16-Dec 17-Dec 18-Dec 19-Dec 20-Dec 21-Dec 22-Dec 23-Dec 24-Dec 25-Dec 26-Dec        
Rm T 63 64 60 64 64 65                      
Rm Rh 95 94 91 93 92 97                      
C02 level 1100 950 1000 1090 1070 978                      
                                   
Control – H20                                  

No Contamination

10 10 10 10 10 10                 10 10  
<10% Cont                             0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 100
Test – EO                                  
No Contamination 10 10 10 10 10 10                 10 10  
<10% Cont                             0 9  
10 – 30% Cont                             0 8  
>30% Cont                             0 7 100

Summary of Contamination Results

Dr. Boce Zhang provided a template to analyze the results. In each trial, the following points were applied: 

10 Points Uncontaminated Blocks

9 Points <10% Contamination

8 Point 10 – 30% Contamination

7 Points >30% Contamination

Applying this methodology, the difference in contamination levels was insignificant. 

Shiitake March April May June July Oct Nov Dec  
Control 90 90 100 90 91 98 97 100  
EO 89 90 100 90 97 98 98 100  
Difference 1 0 0 0 -6 0 -1 0 -0.75
                   
                   
Oyster March April May June July Oct Nov Dec  
Control 100 100 100 91 98 95 99 100  
EO 99 98 100 91 100 95 100 100  
Difference 1 2 0 0 -2 0 -1 0 0

 

Yields

Shiitake

Month Control Electrolyzed Water Difference
March 7.25 13.75 -6.5
April 5 8 -3
May 4 4.25 -0.25
June 19 21.25 -2.25
July 15.25 18.75 -3.5
October 21.85 22.75 -0.9
November 17.2 15.3 1.9
December 21 22.3 -1.3
Total 110.55 126.35 -15.8


Oyster

 

Month Control Electrolyzed Water Difference
March 23.5 20.25 3.25
April 17.75 23.25 -5.5
May 28.75 14.5 14.25
June 13.5 15.25 -1.75
July 4.65 4.65 0
October 28.5 29.75 -1.25
November 13.9 24.4 -10.5
December 25.25 25.5 -0.25
Total 155.8 157.55 -1.75

Managing environmental factors – humidity and CO2 levels – was challenging and may have impacted results. 

Systems for Making Electrolyzed Water

The systems for making electrolyzed water were evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Ease of use
  • Appropriate quantity
  • Reliability
  • Cost of unit
  • Cost of inputs
  • Availability of inputs

Force of Nature:

  • Ease of use – Simple to use, adding one capsule to each batch
  • Appropriate quantity – Makes insufficient quantity for each batch, resulting in the need to make multiple batches to fill the sprayer
  • Reliability – System was reliable
  • Cost of unit –$50/unit, purchased 3 units to be able to make 1 quart/liter at a time
  • Cost of inputs – $1 capsule/12oz of electrolyzed water
  • Availability of inputs – must be purchased from Force of Nature

EcoOne

  • Ease of use – Simple to use, must weigh/measure salt and vinegar
  • Appropriate quantity – Makes 1 liter, sufficient to fill the reservoir in the handheld sprayer
  • Reliability – System was reliable
  • Cost of unit –$149/unit
  • Cost of inputs – Common salt and vinegar pennies per batch
  • Availability of inputs – can be purchased at any grocery store

GenEon

  • Ease of use – More complicated. Each batch must be repeatedly tested and wand re-started in 10 minute increments to increase concentration of chlorine until it reaches 200ppm
  • Appropriate quantity – Makes up to 5 gallons at a time. Depending on the scale of the mushroom farm, this might be an appropriate quantity
  • Reliability – System was reliable
  • Cost of unit – $2500
  • Cost of inputs – $3/batch
  • Availability of inputs – Must be purchased from GenEon

Considering the above factors, EcoOne was the most desirable for our scale.

Sprayers

Our proposal included the purchase of handheld electrostatic sprayers from Force of Nature and Victory Innovations. Upon purchase, we realized these units were made by the same manufacturer and there was no difference. Overall, the units were ideal, being handheld and battery operated. The capacity of 1 quart was sufficient for application to 20 blocks. Unfortunately, mid-way through the experiment one of the units stopped working. The mushroom environment is high humidity and even our work space and storage spaces have elevated levels of humidity. This caused some rust on the units and may have contributed to the failure. We would recommend this unit, but also recommend purchasing any warranty and appropriate storage to extend the life of the unit.

These units cost $650.

We also tested a stationary unit from Fuji. This was less useful because it had a long hose which made it more difficult to maneuver in the grow room.

This unit cost $720.

 

 

 

Research conclusions:

The goal of this experiment was to determine if spraying mushroom grow blocks with electrolyzed water would reduce contamination and increase yields. After measuring results for 6 months, we determined the electrolyzed water did not make a statistically significant difference in yields or contamination rates. 

Producers interested in moving away from the use of bleach for cleaning may wish to consider one of the systems studied in this experiment for the production of electrolyzed water as an alternative to bleach. 

Participation Summary
1 Farmer participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

The results were not statistically significant, so no outreach event was held. 

Learning Outcomes

1 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

We expected to find that the application of electrolyzed water would reduce contamination and increase yields; however, neither of the expected outcomes was observed. 

Project Outcomes

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Looking back, this experiment would benefit from improved climate control. The climate in our grow rooms is variable depending on outside weather. The goal of this experiment was to determine if application of electrolyzed water would help in small-scale productions like Fat Moon. The results do not support using it in our setup, but it might be useful in operations with more sophisticated climate control. 

 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.