Mushroom farms today are highly technical operations.
It all starts in a laboratory
The life of a cultivated mushroom requires sterile conditions, so the entire growing process begins in a laboratory. The spores, or natural seeds of the mushroom, are so tiny that a person cannot handle them. Instead, lab personnel inoculate sterile cereal grains with the spores and incubate them until they develop into a viable product. These grains become “spawn,” which can then be sown like seed.
At the farm, the grower carefully prepares the basic growing medium for mushroom production, which is called substrate – a key ingredient in mushroom production. Two types of starting material are generally used for mushroom substrate: synthetic compost consisting of wheat or rye straw, hay, crushed corn cobs, cottonseed meal, cocoa shells and gypsum, or manure-based compost made from stable bedding from horse stables or poultry litter.
This process converts plant and animal products into a mixture of decayed organic matter that is necessary for growing mushrooms. The process is technical and scientific but mushroom substrate prepared on the farm has only one use – to grow mushrooms. Just as soil is the growing medium for field crop production, substrate is the growing mix for mushroom production
For all crops, including mushrooms, the right ingredients must be blended to create a quality product. Without this special substrate, mushrooms will not grow.