11 Commonly asked questions about starting a mushroom farm as a business.
1. Why start a mushroom farm?
There are several reasons you may want to start a mushroom farm as a business. First, gourmet mushrooms are a cash crop that is growing in popularity. Second, there is a premium on the price of quality locally grown farms to table mushrooms. Finally, unlike other crops, you can grow mushrooms year round. In fact, growing mushrooms indoors allows you to control the temperature, humidity, and air flow, which will increase your chance of success.
2. Can I grow mushrooms where I live?
Anyone can grow mushrooms where they live, since they can be grown indoors and in a relatively small space. The question to research is do I have any competition in my area for locally grown mushrooms of the variety I am considering growing. You may find that there are no other sources in your area or that there are 1-2 but that the market can support another successful farm.
3. What are the best mushrooms for me to grow?
This depends on your skills, your market, and many factors. Most growers find early success with oyster and shiitake mushroom varieties. Of the two, oysters are easier to grow and often a great place to start as you are learning to grow mushrooms. Once successful with oysters, growers then move on to other varieties based on the demand in their area and growth in cultivation skills.
4. What is the best way to grow oyster mushrooms?
Oyster mushrooms respond very well to growing in supplemented sawdust. The most responsive formula for growth is called the master mix. At Mushroom Media Online, we call it out fast fruiting mix. It is 50% hardwood and 50% soy hulls. That ultimate 50/50 mix creates the perfect balance of structure and nutrition for growing your oyster mushrooms. The amazing thing about this ideal mix is how productive it is at growing oyster mushrooms. Many farmers report yields that are as much as 200% what they were obtaining with other substrates.
5. Can growing part time be profitable?
Mushrooms may be the ultimate part time business. Given the high perceived value of gourmet mushrooms, and the high yields when using the masters mix, part time growing can be very profitable. Some growers start with a growing area as small as a 10X10 fruiting chamber and can grow enough mushrooms in that space to earn over $50,000 part time.
6. Can I grow oyster or shiitake mushrooms in other substrates?
Yes you can but the question is why would you?
If you have access to another substrate locally, that is free then it may make sense for you. If you have to pay for your substrate as most of us do the loss of production due to the reduced yield will make growing in other substrates largely a wasted exercise. Like every other investment in your life you have to ask what is my time worth?
7. When do you harvest your mushrooms?
Harvesting mushrooms is done when your mushrooms have completed the fruiting phase and reached maturity. You harvest the mushrooms at the peak of their growth when they will taste the best, look great, and be able to be sold for a premium. Since you will be growing year round indoors harvesting may become a weekly task.
8. Where can my new gourmet mushrooms be sold?
The 3 primary markets for fresh local mushrooms are restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers markets for direct to consumer sales. There are new markets for freeze dried, canned, and shipped mushrooms as well. However, the local farm to table movement means your fresh local mushroom market will be your most profitable.
Some varieties of mushrooms also lead themselves to being used as key ingredients in other products. These include nutritional supplements, and other health foods. These are often called value-added products.
9. What value-added products can be made from your gourmet mushrooms?
A few of the most popular products include mushroom jerky for vegetarians, pickled mushrooms, mushroom seasonings, dehydrated mushrooms and nutritional supplements.
10. How much money can a gourmet mushroom farmer earn?
Given the short time from inoculation until harvest (as short as 6 weeks) it is possible to time your growth to have mushrooms to harvest each week. This means the opportunity to earn profits every week. One successful restaurant can order as much as $500 of mushrooms every month. Some who make mushrooms a part of more dishes might be able to use even more. Consider if you have just 5 average monthly restaurant customers. That income alone could be as much as $2,500 a month or more. This would not include grocery store sales, direct to consumer sales, or the value-added products you can make and offer as well. So the income potential of a successful farm may be great when you consider all the income sources, and ways to sell your mushrooms.
We recommend working out a 3 year growth plan for your business where you work through these numbers and consider various models for growth.
11. What are the costs for starting a mushroom farm?
There are many things to consider when you are thinking about starting your own mushroom farm. You need to think about the size of your first grow room or fruiting chamber. Another important factor to consider is your substrate and your grow bags for your first few months of growing. Some successful farms have started with a pallet of our fast fruiting mix for the substrate, and a good initial supply of unicorn grow bags. You also have to set up the fruiting chamber with humidity control, temperature control, and good air flow. You will also need some basic lighting.
Another key part to consider is the source of your first mushroom strains for growing. We recommend you use liquid culture for your mushrooms that has been professionally prepared to create your own high quality spawn bags. These in turn are used to inoculate your grow bags before the fruiting stage. So plan on that cost as well to start. In time you will need to address sterilization, and your own process to create your own mushroom spores from the strains of mushrooms you work with.