Curiosity in mushroom is on the rise, notably amongst customers desirous to domesticate their very own provide. Capitalising on this market, MushRush in KwaZulu-Natal provides mushroom spawn to purchasers throughout South Africa. Proprietor Sandra van Rij defined the multi-stage course of of manufacturing spawn to Lindi Botha.
When Sandra and Neil van Rij ventured into mushroom farming in 2008, they went all out, organising each spawn manufacturing and a industrial mushroom farm. Medicinal mushrooms had been in notably excessive demand on the time, and oyster and shitake mushrooms dominated the operation, neatly named MushRush.
It didn’t take lengthy earlier than the couple, who’re primarily based in Howick in KwaZulu-Natal, realised that producing each spawn and mushrooms required a substantial amount of juggling, particularly when making an attempt to maintain up with demand.
“It’s like a poultry farmer making an attempt to provide chicks and broilers. The 2 are each specialised and every requires one’s full consideration,” says Van Rij. Spawn and mushroom manufacturing every supplied its execs and cons, nonetheless, and the Van Rijs weighed these up fastidiously earlier than lastly deciding on spawn.
“Spawn producers are few and much between, and the enterprise is capital-intensive, so there’s a better hole on this market. We additionally already had all of the gear. And with the longer shelf lifetime of spawn (six weeks versus 5 days for mushrooms), producing it offers a bigger window for gross sales, decreasing waste.
“I additionally discovered that producing a constant batch of high quality mushrooms week after week was far tougher than doing the identical with spawn. It is because spawn is cultivated in a extremely steady, managed surroundings, so the possibilities of one thing interfering with development are minimal.
“As well as, they’re not seasonal and could be produced year-round. Mushrooms are delicate to seasonal modifications, weather conditions and all the opposite points that include industrial meals manufacturing,” says Van Rij.
One more benefit is that spawn is cultivated in a laboratory, and thus requires far much less area for manufacturing than is the case with mushrooms. MushRush has three separate laboratories: one the place the cultures are produced, one other the place the spawn is cultivated, and a non-sterile lab housing an autoclave. T
his is a kind of strain cooker used to sterilise sorghum grain, which offers the ‘meals’ for the spawn. It achieves this in 5 hours utilizing excessive strain and warmth.
The Van Rijns even have a packaging room, and a 0,5ha plot the place they develop Napier fodder grass as a substrate for mass manufacturing of spawn.
The primary stage of spawn manufacturing takes place in essentially the most sterile of the three laboratories. Biosecurity is all essential at this level, and anybody concerned within the course of is sprayed down with a steriliser earlier than entry and has to put on a lab coat, hair internet and gloves.
The method begins in a petri dish, the place mushroom cultures are positioned on an agar plate. It is a delicate stage, stresses Van Rij: the tradition have to be dealt with with the utmost care to stop contamination by every other spores or micro organism.
A small part of this tradition is then positioned on sterilised sorghum grain to provide so-called ‘main’ spawn. That is allowed to colonise, with the mycelium making a community of spawn throughout the grain.
The grain used on this course of is obtained from a Durban-based provider. It’s washed to take away the useless grain after which sterilised within the autoclave, as described above.
The following step is to domesticate this spawn in better amount, and this takes place within the second laboratory utilizing one other piece of specialized gear, a laminar movement hood.
Outfitted with a extremely environment friendly filter, this gadget generates a stream of just about sterile air and permits a considerable amount of grain to be safely inoculated with main spawn. Though nice care is taken, the inoculated grain inevitably encounters a small quantity of micro organism on this laboratory.
“The method can get very difficult. Many mushroom growers wrestle to make the bounce from mushroom tradition to rising spawn. This step takes place in a laboratory the place the surroundings is managed, however to a lesser diploma than the lab the place the cultures are made. It’s like introducing new meals to a child; it’s important to do it little by little to make sure they don’t reject the meals or get in poor health.”
Every week later, a bigger bag of grain is inoculated with the first spawn, and inside two weeks of this, the grain is totally lined in mycelium and able to be offered as mushroom spawn.
Making it simple for purchasers
After shopping for the spawn, the client can add it to a bag of substrate to provide mushrooms. As a result of the substrate offers the nourishment for the mushrooms, choosing the fitting materials is essential. Avoiding contamination continues to play a significant function, and any substrate ought to due to this fact first be sterilised.
As this may create one other pitfall for growers, MushRush produces ready-made mushroom ‘logs’, that are clear plastic luggage containing spawn and substrate blended collectively. The grower want solely place the bag in a heat, humid space and water it to get the mushrooms rising. (Historically, mushrooms are grown on actual tree logs, however manufacturing takes a very long time.)
The substrate, as talked about, is Napier fodder grass and is grown on the property.
“It’s low cost, grows quick and produces numerous substrate on a small piece of land,” says Van Rij. After harvest, the grass is dried, put by means of a hammer mill and sterilised. Spawn is added to provide the mushroom ‘logs’.
MushRush gives mushroom cultivation lessons and pays shut consideration to substrate manufacturing throughout these classes, as so many growers wrestle with this a part of the method. Van Rij explains that gaining access to a constant provide of substrate that’s freely or cheaply accessible is essential.
“Rising mushrooms in a metropolis isn’t supreme; though you don’t want a lot land, accessing and transporting substrate generally is a downside.”
Figuring out your corporation inside out is commonly touted as a key to success. Within the case of mushroom spawn manufacturing, realizing the scent of your corporation is essential.
“There are good smells and dangerous smells,” says Van Rij. “When the whole lot’s going nicely, there’s a selected scent within the air. If this modifications, I do know one thing’s off.”
Mushrooms are extremely inclined to micro organism and different fungi, so having the fitting sorts in the fitting portions could make or break a crop. If there’s contamination from different fungi or micro organism, complete batches of spawn could be ruined.
Van Rij relates how one morning the scent within the laboratories was certainly off.
“I began in search of something that had modified in the previous couple of days that would have prompted contamination. I ultimately narrowed it all the way down to a brand new cleansing agent we had been utilizing.
“As a result of micro organism develop immune to cleansing chemical compounds in a short time, we rotate about six totally different merchandise in every cycle. One we’d by no means used earlier than was clearly not working and micro organism ranges spiked, killing the spawn.”
She notes that even when a shirt sleeve touches the within of a mushroom bag, overseas micro organism could be launched. Cleanliness and sterilisation are due to this fact of the utmost significance.
A rising market
Whereas MushRush can produce as much as 250kg of spawn per week, what number of mushrooms this interprets to shouldn’t be simple to calculate.
“Clients typically ask what number of mushrooms they’ll get from a selected amount of spawn. Answering that’s like making an attempt to find out what number of apples a tree offers you. The crop depends upon the rising situations, how a lot water it obtained, temperatures, and anything that can affect yields on every other crop,” explains Van Rij.
To develop optimally, mushrooms want contemporary air, excessive humidity and a daily supply of sunshine. Additionally they have a excessive water requirement, as they comprise principally water. However it isn’t as simple because it appears and Van Rij says there appear to be many ‘hit-and-miss’ growers.
“It’s not rocket science, but it surely’s a bit technical. Many begin, however then wrestle to get manufacturing going and quit. It’s principally on the log stage the place they wrestle: getting the fitting substrate, feeding the mushrooms and taking the crop from spawn to mushrooms. Because of this we promote ready logs that already comprise the whole lot.”
Regardless of the problem, demand for mushroom spawn is rising. Van Rij notes that the market is made up of 4 teams: foodies desirous to develop their very own mushrooms; folks within the medicinal properties of mushrooms for their very own and industrial functions; folks making their very own logs and promoting them on; and small-scale industrial growers.
The cut up between dwelling growers and industrial producers is 60/40.
MushRush couriers its merchandise countrywide, with many gross sales concentrated in Cape City. Information about mushrooms has additionally elevated in recent times, turning once-sceptical customers into avid growers.
“There’s actually much more competitors available in the market than once we began. Again then, folks had been suspicious and thought we had been promoting toxic mushrooms. Now there’s enormous demand and curiosity, particularly on the medicinal facet.
“Because the airing on Netflix of a documentary on mushrooms, demand for lion’s mane mushrooms particularly has soared, whereas beforehand there was hardly any curiosity,” says Van Rij.
Of specific benefit to MushRush is the truth that the manufacturing of medicinal mushrooms and food-grade mushrooms is comparable, so nothing within the enterprise want be modified to provide each markets.
E mail Sandra van Rij at [email protected].