Shipping Container Mushroom Farm Sprouts in Yarra Valley
Mushrooms love to grow in old shipping containers! They also don’t travel well when ready so the best mushrooms you can get are locally grown. John Ford does just this for residents in Belgrave, Victoria, splitting his time between being a marine biologist and an oyster mushroom farmer.
Let’s talk ‘shrooms…
Mushrooms are neither animal or plant but a third category – fungi. These are parasitic organisms that love to live in wood and anything organic they can eat. For most of their lifecycles fungi live within their hosts and don’t show themselves until the wrong conditions present themselves and in fear they will die, they produce fruit carrying spores – these are the mushrooms you and I love to eat.
Traditionally people have foraged for mushrooms but this is a real science in its own right. Ninety percent of them are tasteless and a few are extremely toxic. Another small group, such as shiitake and oyster mushrooms, are absolutely delicious!
As ever, mankind has worked out how to fool the fungi to farm it and harvest it. Farmers infect logs, leave them to get on with it and after a certain time, give the fungi the challenging conditions to make them fruit. They collect some spores to infect another log and so the cycle continues.
According to Grocycle, you only need around 30 square metres of space to produce around 50 kilos of mushrooms a week! The website, run by people who, like John Ford, went out and created their own farm, say, “You could … use spare space in garages, basements, barns, shipping containers – someone we know is even looking at setting up in an old disused toilet block!” The farm just requires a small amount of space and maybe $1,500 of investment to get off the ground.
Each shipping container mushroom farm is divided into three sections for the different phases of the lifecycle of the fungi from infection, to fruiting.
King Oyster Mushroom Farm
Over the last three years, marine biologist Dr John Ford has been restoring sea grass fields and oyster beds around Port Philip in Victoria. Initially he was foraging for his own cooking but the idea came to him to grow his own at enough scale to supplement his income.
Ford’s farm consists of a shipping container, a greenhouse and an outdoor space for the autumn when the growing conditions are right to grow the oyster mushrooms outdoors. He then sells the produce from King Oyster Mushroom Farm at the Big Dreams Market in Belgrave.
The mushies you find in a supermarket are nothing compared to the taste of something cut just hours before it hits the pan. The fungi have got one over on humanity there – there isn’t a very good way of keeping them fresh in a long supply chain. Plus you won’t find the selection that Ford has to offer in the supermarket – he produces lion’s mane, yellow, blue and grey oysters (native to the Dandenong Ranges), elm oyster, piopinno as well as a few shiitakes.
For Ford this is a bit of a hobby that pays well, and is definitely a cottage-scale industry that he has no real plans to expand. The community of Belgrave by return, gets a fantastic selection of fungi to eat!
Theoretically mushroom farms can be grown in big cities just as well as out in the bush. Here’s a business idea: set up a ‘shroom farm and supply all the swanky local restaurants in your area so they get the best of the best. If an idea like this does cross your mind, give us a shout at Gateway Container Sales here in Brisbane to discuss your needs!