Growing mushrooms commercially without a lot of energy, infrastructure, and single-use plastic is very challenging. Mushroom growers rely on autoclavable polypropylene bags to contain spawn (e.g grain) and bulk substrate (e.g. sawdust) during sterilization. Once the mushrooms are harvested from the bags, the plastic is sent to the landfill. Additionally, the sterilization process is cumbersome and energy-intensive requiring high heat and vessels that can withstand 15 pounds of pressure for a substantial amount of time. A company in North Carolina, Mycovations, developed a technique to eliminate one of these unsustainable barriers for small-scale mushroom farmers: they found that vinegar can be used to pasteurize hardwood fuel pellets, eliminating the on-farm need for sustained heat and pressure in growing popular culinary mushrooms like Oyster and Lion's Mane. However, their method still relies on the use of new plastic bags. I will explore the feasibility of replacing single-use bags with reusable buckets using Mycovation's vinegar pasteurization technique. All spent substrate will be composted on-site and used to grow secondary-decomposer mushrooms and enhance soil health. The goal is to make mushroom growing as regenerative and accessible to local farmers as possible while reducing the amount of single-use plastic used in production.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Develop a technique for bucket/jar growing that produces reliable and consistent results. Buckets will be used for pasteurized bulk substrate and glass jars will be used for grain spawn made on-site.
- Research the time, cost, and yield comparison for Oyster and Lion's Mane mushrooms grown in single-use plastic versus reusable plastic buckets.
- Share the process with area farmers who may wish to add mushrooms to their operation through field days, social media, and info sheets.