What does commercial mushroom farming look like in the United States? Today we welcome the production manager of Far West Fungi, Kyle Garrone, to share the history of commercial farming in the US. Far West Fungi has been in business for over 35 years, and the team has traveled far and wide to learn from mushroom farms around the globe. Kyle has designed systems for large scale cultivation in California for common culinary mushrooms like oysters, shiitake, lion’s mane, woodear, pioppini, reishi and more. Tune in to learn about Far West Fungi’s history and technique, as well as advice for fellow farmers, or anyone interested in making a business out of mushroom cultivation.
- Family history of Far West Fungi
- Converting Agaricus bisporus farms into an straw-based automated mushroom farming
- Mushroom farming methods from Asia, Europe and beyond
- Market research for mushroom consumption in your area and beyond
- Advice for mushroom farming businesses on where to start, what not to do, and how to scale
- Where to buy automated cultivation equipment
- Aging substrates to improve mycelial health
- Far West Fungi website: https://farwestfungi.com/
- Kyle’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kylegarrone/
- Video tour of Far West Fungi Farm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH98i_Fs8K8
- Myco Systemics: https://mycosystemics.com/
Welcome, welcome everyone to another episode of the mushroom revival podcast. Thank you for tuning in and trimming in wherever you are, and get ready for another episode.
And today we are welcoming Kyle girone, who has extensive experience as a mushroom farmer. And we are going to talk about the ins and outs of running this business, the industry in the United States. Thank you so much for joining us today. Kyle.
No problem. I'm happy to be here. I love talking about mushrooms.
Did your parents get you into it? How did this fascination stories I I'm guessing it's a family thing.
But it is a family thing. I grew up in the business of mushrooms, but I was not sure if I was gonna be part of the family business. But my draw into it was when I was around 18 I went to Spain and I went to a micro raizel conference and I just got really interested in the biological aspects of it. So yeah, that was my push to like, study it and be more involved in the mushroom industry, personally, and you're part of farwest fungi, which many people if they're into mushroom environment are probably familiar with you have a very established farm. How long have you been in business? And how long have you personally been contributing? business is over 35 years old. And my whole life I've been in the industry like by district like selling mushrooms at farmer's markets as a kid. But for running the operations. It's been about 10 years after school, I came out and now I run the whole production side of the business.
Y'all dominate the farmers market in California every time anyone from California says that they picked up mushrooms from the farmers market. I know it's from you guys. How about how many of you in now? \
It depends on this. You know there's more in the summer but we do between I think 15 to 20 farmers markets a week I've been to the one in San Francisco I think it's a it's there forever right the the store fire Yeah, yeah, yeah, a permanent store in the Ferry Building and then we do the farmers market on Saturday outside the Ferry Building. And then we have a new store in Santa Cruz that we just opened. That's it even more mushroom oriented. There's like a small like cafe part so we do some small dishes just to get people more excited and give people ideas about how to eat all these different weird new varieties that are popping up. Sweet what what are the coolest things I saw this is when I was just getting into mushrooms this was like 2015 maybe 14
maybe 13 but a while ago and it there was this glass I don't know if you still have them but they're grow kits and you put a glass dome over it to kind of preserve the humidity of the mushroom kit and it looks so super cool. Seeing like the different color oysters and it maybe had Reishi I can't remember but that was definitely drew my eye when the first time I went
Unknown Speaker 3:10
Yeah, we have these glass giant Bell jars that just have like a giant like handle and yeah, we put all the kids in there and kind of adds that like pops a little bit better and it looks like cool, little biodome thing. So
what all do you grow right before this call you mentioned Agaricus farming.
We purchased an Eric his farm too. That was an old Agaricus farm that we converted to our new oyster mushroom facility. So it's just in the area that we have a lot of there's a lot of mushroom farms in Pennsylvania and in California, there's another area that has a lot of accumulation of old Agaricus farms in like Gilroy. And so we purchased the farm just in that area that was closing down and they were just kind of getting out of the business. And we converted it to doing straw based substrate in a tunnel system to do big well like 35 pound bags of oyster structure in a compression bagging. So it's all automated. So we can do about 30,000 pounds of material in about eight hours. And it's all bagged up and I only have two people running that. So it's just a very efficient system. Yeah. Wow. Yes. So that was our, our new push. We have our other farming moss landing. But the new idea is how do we become more efficient, more automated and kind of break up both forms. One form is more of a European system. I don't know if you ever seen those giant oyster bags they do they kind of look like suitcases. And then at the other site, we're doing more of an Asian you know, the smaller five pound bags. The bags are purchased filter bags. This one actually the bags just come in flat rolls and then there's micro perforations in it. So just like very small needle pricks, and then that machine folds the bag and then gussets it and then seals both ends. So it's different. It's totally different system it would only work for certain breeds and mushrooms but overall it's very efficient and you can do different
Yeah, trying to find the most efficient ways of growing each varieties. Yeah, we're just so new to mushroom cultivation. And even I just went to China. And they're still, I mean, coming out with these crazy patents of new grow texts that blow my mind right of defying gravity and just doing some weird stuff that works. And we both come from a commercial mushroom growing background. And but most of our listeners, I'm guessing don't right, and maybe have had bought a little kit online and possibly had grown, you know, some an oyster kit or something. But I'm guessing there's a lot of people who are listening who has never grown mushrooms before, we can tell you, it's really hard. It's not like gardening. vegetables, it's it's a lot more difficult and a lot more foreign for a lot of people. So what would you say is kind of the hardest part of the business or just growing mushrooms in general.
Unknown Speaker 5:54
So I, so I've been around it for a long time. And I've met a lot of people along the way. And it's very difficult, I mean, it's really hard to get your foot in the door. And you can really lose a lot of money doing it at the same time. Because unless you have a really strong system in place, and you have really good controls, any little bit of contamination, getting your whole system, and it's really hard to get that out. And so that's one of the first things you have that really good fundamentals, and then understanding your market is extremely difficult as well. And so from my experience, to get the jump from very small to very large is really, really hard. And so if you want to stay niche, do more of like that hobbyist style, or even, you'll do a couple farmers markets, I think that that is more feasible, because you can get more money for your mushrooms. But when you go to that next jump to the wholesale market, you're competing with a totally different group of mushroom farmers that are doing a lot of different things, which is either bringing in substrate from Asia, and then you know, lower prices. And so it's very complicated. And so one of the first things I tell people is like, maybe just figure out what that that need is within your market. So maybe even just broker for another farm at first to see like, hey, how many mushrooms really, is the area actually consuming around me or something like that. And then if you can have that established market, then maybe then try to meet your production demand from there. Because it's really hard to do the reverse electro, you know, 1000 pounds of mushrooms, and no one wants them, you know that that's a big problem, you know, and so I think that is my first recommendation, figure your market out and then establish that and then figure out how you can scale effectively. Right now, it's pretty difficult to build a mushroom farm cost effectively in California. And so that's why it's much easier to purchase an old farm that you can convert into maybe for exotics. But that's also very expensive, you know, we, we were just lucky that we've been in the industry for so long, and we've taken a very slow progression to get where we were, I mean, 35 years, my family started it, and then we're now you know, developing newer techniques and also able to get larger facilities. So which helps, because mushroom farming takes a lot of room. But it also takes a lot of energy and a lot of manpower. And all those things are very expensive. Yeah, yeah. So good luck, good luck, all the mushroom farmers out there.
Yeah, and probably stay small, right? It sounds like, you know, get your kit and, and grow mushrooms at home, that's easy. And the farmers have already done most of the work for you, you just have to cut a hole in the bag and spritz it every once in a while.
Unknown Speaker 8:22
I think a lot of people get into mushroom farming at my experience is like, Oh, I'm gonna make all this money. And then like, they're like, I just lost all this money. You know, it's like a interesting, like, you got to come you got to check out I would say check out our farm pits larger or smaller, whatever and see what they're doing. And then also look at the prices because you know, at a farmers market, maybe you can sell your mushrooms for $20. Now, I promise you, I'm not doing that, you know, and when I sell to Whole Foods, I'm definitely not doing that. So, you know, you got to think like, okay, maybe, you know, in a very small scale, it's okay to sell 100 pounds at that price. But if you're doing, you know, 30,000 pounds, you're not going to get those prices. So you got to figure out where that that markup is where your profitability, and then where things are going. I mean, one of the biggest pushes for us to do this more automated system at this new site was that we saw that, you know, labor is going up, things are getting more expensive, how do we become more efficient at producing our substrate at the end of the day without as much labor. So, and there's models outside of the United States that have much more developed markets, you can just go in and check out what they're doing. And it gives you a lot of good ideas. Because, you know, Europe is very expensive, labor is very difficult to find there and you have to pay a lot more for your labor, just because that's just the system that they have. You have to pay for health care and all the other things that go along with it. And so if you go to like the Netherlands and you go, Okay, that's going to be the way we need to go. But, you know, they're a little bit smarter there where they break every step up, you know, they have a guy that just produces substrate, they have a guy that then takes the substrate and fruits it and then they sell it to us, you know, so each one specialized and they can ramp up in their own areas out here. We're like our own islands. You know, we do everything because we don't have the resources to go Oh, I can buy this guy substrate. I can fruit it and then I can just sell it to this guy. You have to do all of it. And that's just a lot more hats. You have to wear and And make sure you're not making mistakes along that whole progression.
So how, how have you seen mushroom farming develop over time? Like when? Did it start in Japan? Or where did it start and how has it kind of evolve over time, through machinery through just techniques, varieties.
So we have like two different systems that would say, like that have been developed. So you have like the European model, which is Agaricus production. And so like that's, you know, the Netherlands specialized on big making large machines, very efficient systems, farms that can produce 700,000 pounds, and have 10 guys working at it, you know, because all auto picked, and and then they just buy compost, and everything's filled automatically. And so you have that whole area. And then you have more of the, the Asian system. So you have like the Chinese, which do those like skinny two bags that look like little sausages. And then they use a very cheap filter, and they still do it. And that system is just how much material can we make as possible. And then you have like the Japanese system, which is the substrates pretty expensive in Japan, because it's an island, and they don't have that much raw material, their labor is more expensive. And so that block is very important to them. So they put a lot of energy and making sure that everything is going correctly, they don't get contamination. And so I looked at all those different systems. And I would say, four are in the United States where labor is more expensive, and we don't have this crazy labor force. And we do want to not use too much of the raw materials, even though it is somewhat cheaper here, I would go with that method, which is, you know, filter bags. And then they focused both. Both are focused on automation. But it's just a little bit easier than doing those skinny two bags for just handling. But China is catching up. I mean, they are invested a lot in automation and machinery, but they still have a crazy workforce. I don't know how to compare, you know, they can build a mushroom farm in one year? And do they have 200 people working there, and they're doing X amount of million pounds. And they did all that because it's basically funded by the government or somebody that knows somebody else. And it's subsidized in some weird way. But yeah, so I would say my summary about each system I would look at, for me, in my opinion, I went to Europe, I feel like the, for exotics, the doing the large oyster bags is very efficient. And then you can do bulk pasteurization and then in in Japan, doing the sterilized using an autoclave. Trying to make as efficient the whole filling and producing of sterile blocks is probably one of the more efficient ways of doing it. In Europe, there is some in between systems, are you doing bulk sterilization in these somewhat weird expensive chambers and then spawning in cooling substrate, spawning it all on the line? In my experience when I have visited us facilities, it's a little funky. I don't I don't trust it, you know, like I've seen some extreme contamination if one thing goes wrong. So I would say your substrate, you would look at two different ones, you have a selective substrate and you have a non selective substrate. And so with your select this website, you have a lot of more fudging where you can say, okay, it doesn't have to be too clean, because not as many things are gonna grow on it. But you have selective substrate and you go towards this like bulk spawning bulk pasteurization, I think you have a lot of issues with contamination chances and, and so I just always stayed away from that.
This is such a valuable insight for any of our listeners who are entertaining the idea of starting a mushroom farm. So thank you, for all of us. And I would like mushroom farming is funny to me, because my experience is almost everything you use every tool, every piece of equipment was not originally purposed for mushroom farming. So the autoclaves are the pressure steam sterilizers are used for canning, and it does the job and it does the job great. But it wasn't originally made to grow mushrooms. Same thing with the Petri plates and the syringe filters like everything involved. Except for filter bags. I think that might be the only exception. What can you say about this?
In that mushroom farming or mushrooms in general are always under looked as an industry overall. And in study in science, I would say that, yeah, it's basically when I studied plant biology, I went into it because that was where all the mycologists were, which was in plant pathology, which is they're trying to kill fungi, which is mostly where the research is done in universities. There's not really anyone working on trying to cultivate mushrooms other than Penn State, they have a small mushroom farm. But even that, that, that they had a professor and Royce he left it so that that department is not as well represented. And so yeah, it's it's it is sad that we are always like underlooked. But I think like in Japan and some other countries, they have invested heavily in those industries. And so there is some interesting things that come out of it like the bottle system. So you have like these automated polypropylene little bottles with like filters on them. And so it's very efficient. And they are making some machinery that specializing for motion production. But yeah, I would say what helps a lot about developing those those systems is you have to pick a system and in the States, we don't really do There, everyone is going, Oh, I'm gonna grow oyster mushrooms in a bucket. But I found I drill some holes in it, you know? And you know, so you one debate is okay, what is our system here, and then when you can pick that system, then you can go, I can invest in it, and I can make it better and better and better. And then people can go, Okay, this is something that works across the board, everyone is using it. And then there's more capital that can come into it, if it is a very uniform thing. And I think that's what people in Asia have done. They say, Okay, this is a way to grow mushrooms, there's no other way, not saying there can't be. And and then you can get a lot more capital investment in it, because then it's very uniform, then you can also train people on those systems. And so I think that will be maybe a debate here at some point when we get large enough, because there is definitely a big mushroom boom. But there was also one that happened in the 80s that people don't really know about, that pretty much was destroyed by the Chinese market, bringing in fresh shoe talking, it was a big push in the 80s growing shoe talking and everyone thought it was going to be the next thing. And then the they started importing shitai from China. And then there was they couldn't compete with the, the, the Chinese mushrooms produced in United States, and then that whole thing kind of fell apart. And the people that survived like warming mushrooms, and we we were able to get along during that time, you know, that we kind of came out. But we see that you know, and I think that the same threat could be happening again. So I think we we small farms and large farms need to work together. And I'm happy to work with anyone, I'm happy to show anyone what I do. You know, at the end of the day, it's all pretty much the same thing. I'm not doing anything too special. It's just that we've been doing it for a long time. And we've been focusing on just the fundamentals and providing a good product. So that's really, you know, I'll tell you everything you want to know, it's not that nothing crazy going on.
What do you feel like? It's the future of mushroom farming. And we have listeners from all around the world. So maybe majority of the people listening are in the US. So maybe we're both in the US. And maybe we can start there and globally. What do you think is the future of mushroom farming?
Unknown Speaker 17:01
So for edible exotics and other varieties, I think there's going to be more people are going to demand that. I My only concern is, is that I think people will be eating more mushrooms. But will those mushrooms be produced within the countries that those people are designing those mushrooms? And so that's that's the big question. So is it going to be accumulation of large farms like Hokkaido and Japan which are doing you know, $500 million in sales or more? Or is it going to be something that happens where there's gonna be a lot of small farms can be broken up, and they fit those niche markets. Because the larger producers, which are mostly Agaricus guys are pretty much controlling the United States market. Already, they're bringing in exotic substrates or fresh mushrooms from Korea or China, and then distributing them within our markets, not allowing the exotic guys to actually have a chance. And so that, that we'll see. And I think that will, it's how we establish that market and how we educate the consumer. And I'm hopeful that we can do that. The other thing that we're trying to do is control our market a little bit better. So we're not as reliant on a wholesaler. And that's what we've been always focused on, which is like farmer's markets, but then also these retail stores. And so if we can make a retail store we our test site was Santa Cruz because it's you know, that diverse population that is interested interested in mushroom mushrooms overall, but all different types of foods, if we can make that model work, maybe we can do more of them. And then we can actually grow our mushrooms just for our direct sales. And then we don't have to compete with China or something that because we are then distributing our machinists, our own retail outlets. And so that's one direction that we're hoping that can help us somewhat inform the consumer and let them know that when you go to a restaurant and especially talking on a menu, they don't have to tell you like Oh, these are from China, you know, or something like that. And do you care you know, and also right now with the cool laws like country of origin, if the substrate is then grown in the country, it is called it is a product of USA. So you can bring the substrate here on a zero degree container. And then when it fruits here, even though the whole process of 12 weeks happened in China, it says country, the USA, and if they certify that substrate, it says USDA certified organic product of USA. So those are the things that we're competing against, it was very difficult for us to be able to like how do you have that Lego?
Yeah, and it's, it's the same kind of conversation and I know, with breweries, as well with how do you compete with, you know, these huge, huge beer companies and there's that niche of niche of you know, that craft breweries right of people want those unique local varieties and they don't want pops blue ribbon or something like that. They want those those more local varieties and I think it's easy as a mushroom farmer to get mad at China right of being a lot of places so far ahead, and it's just easier than they've been at it. For over 5000 years, and they have the culture, they have the systems in place, they have way more research and money devoted to this, there's so much easier for them to produce it at a massive scale for really cheap. And for us mushroom farmers, it's, it's hard. It's like, if we figured out how to grow cow or coffee in the US on a mass scale be really hard to compete with the countries that have been doing it for so long. And so yeah, I think, you know, through that education, I wouldn't, there's a line, which I definitely want to talk about if, especially with COVID, there's been a lot of anti China, to the point where it's been racist, and, and has a lot of hate crimes against, you know, Asian cultures. And so there's a line, which is his thing of like, yeah, we want to support local farmers, and we want to lower our carbon footprint and but at the same time, not the
I'm not suggesting anything about any anti China in any way, I think, my my argument is just let us compete on the same plane. So if the product is produced in China, which it is, and if you are a mushroom farmer, you would have that, you know, like that, understanding that if the substrate, the wood and the spawn is all made, and produced in China, then just call it product, China, I have no problem with mushrooms from China, we, we you know that that's fine, you know, they're going to be cheaper, and they're going to just let you know that they're going to have that market, and they're still going to be producing a lot of mushrooms. And right now, the, you know, we can't produce enough mushrooms for what is demand in the States, I'm not trying to say get rid of it, because that would also damage the mushroom industry. And a lot of ways because most of the supplements on the market, if they're fruiting body based and things like that, are probably going to have some some component from China, I'm not trying to trying to knock that I'm just saying allow us to have that leg up. So we can develop our industry in a fair way, you know, because if it's if a consumer has no difference between my mushrooms and the ones that come from China, that's a problem. And I think if anything is just being honest to that consumer, not saying anything against China, they're you know, they are leading that, you know, they have invested heavily, they have the population that eats more mushrooms as they have that demand. I'm fine with that, you know, I've learned from other markets, I've been to China, I've been to Japan, I would have no problem with competing with them. And they have really good quality and, and, you know, I grew up in the Bay Area group in San Bruno, which is outside of San Francisco, we have a large Asian population that has helped our business grow further varieties of mushrooms. And so, yeah, that's not anything where I am, I'm just saying, Can we allow the US market to establish without being somehow limited by another market that is then competing with us on the same somewhat playing field, and the consumer has no idea that there's a difference between those two machines? Which, that I think that people do care? You know, I think if somebody said product to China, or property USA, somebody might care. You know, I think I care. You know, I think even people in China care, you know, you know, they're importing some of our products because of concerns about their, their own industries. So
yeah, and it goes back to transparency, right. And some of those concerns are maybe not based in reality, and I've met a lot of people, and I've had a lot of talks with people who won't buy anything from China because they think it's all dirty and toxic, which is not true. And it's like saying, I won't buy anything from the US because we have Monsanto here. It's like we have really amazing farms that are, you know, organic, they're amazing. They're sustainable. They're awesome. So it's, it comes back to that transparency. And can we, you know, can we have rules and regulations around our labels to like for us or the supplement industry and a big thing is Miss labeling, fruiting body verse mycelium on grain and that fresh, that frustrates us of Okay, well, that's, you know, you got to label it if it's a mushroom or not, and it doesn't, it doesn't make us mad that mycelium on grain is being sold. It's just just label it as that and then I'm totally fine. I love that. That's amazing. Just and from you. It's like well, if it's not grown in here, just label it as that and and so, you know, that comes back to we're so new in this in this country of like, in the mushroom industry is a lot of probably a lot of the people in charge of regulation have no idea. And they probably looked over the whole substrate thing and they're like, Sure, yeah, you could because it's grown here and they don't know the lifecycle of mushrooms. So when it comes back to education, and I really liked what you said of making a system of how to grow mushrooms, right because I was so confused starting to learn much how to grow mushrooms because there's a million texts on like the shimmery.org of everyone and their cousin telling you all the different ways on how to grow mushrooms. Oh, you need Martha Stewart but this is my variation of it with this, you know, humidifier with this like contraption that I put together and like it's confusing of where to go and I've heard this from a lot of people have like, I'm reading So many different ways of how to grow mushrooms. And it's too confusing. I'm out. Right. And so developing those, you know, this is the standard way of how to end this the best way to grow it, but you can from there get creative, right? Yes. So yeah,
Unknown Speaker 25:18
I think I think definitely, you can you, all of us can grow mushrooms a lot of weird ways. And we can do things in totally different ways. But yes, it's It depends, you know, of course, like substrate, and all these things are factors, you know, what raw materials are, how cheap you can get those raw materials, how how easy they work in your new system or old system. And so I think, you know, is as long as you have a system that you can throw a lot of different stuff in there, and you get the end result that works well, and it's very efficient on the side of labor, I think, then go ahead, but we don't have a developed market that anyone I've seen have been able to figure anything out. You know, that's my opinion. You know, like, just there's not that much out there. You know, Pennsylvania has done a lot but you know, it's heavy Agaricus and, and a lot of the exotic farms, you know, are using similar systems, which is, you know, doing filter bags and producing. But most you know, there's only I think oakshire went out of business, and there's Kennett square specialty and Philips, that's it for exotics. Pretty much fascinating. So yeah, and guess where now brings all substrate in from China, I don't know from the substrate. The Chinese they bring in Chinese logs for sure. Talking production. And they, they used to do 80,000 bags, I should talk to substrate a week.
And it goes back to engineering as well of, we just need better systems, right. And if we could buy those machines, and their specialty Bade for mushroom farming, and we don't have to every single farm that comes up has to create their own system and tweak and existence existing system that I think our industry can blossom a lot faster.
So we we sell all all Japanese machines. So if anyone needs machines, we do sell automated systems. Now, street so we we do do do a distribution. And we have them at our facilities. So if people want to come and see them in action, we are the we're happy to do that. So mixers, baggers, even autoclaves. For it mushroom industry. It's a little hairy from other countries, because the certification issue, but it is something we have available if people want to see them. Also bags, we also sell filter bags,
what kind of scale does that help with your machines is that more for small, medium, large,
Unknown Speaker 27:34
large scale, we sell small machines to we can do like baggers, so the baggage that we have can do about 750 bags an hour. So at my farm in moss landing, we do 4200 bags a day, five to six days a week. And so we would I have two machines running up to guys running them, and they can do the 1300 bucks an hour. And then so it's very efficient in that way. So for me to run my mixing line, they only need three guys. And then we finish by, you know, 12 o'clock, or 1130 or something like that. So, and we'll fill for audit for autoclaves. And we can do sorry, we have three autoclaves. And we do four cooks. So each autoclave has about 1000 a little over 1000 bags in them. And we do use circle autoclaves we don't have the square ones, because of the certification issue, you can run the square ones just below 15 psi, and they're okay. So you can run it like 14. And that's fine. You know, it's just a little bit more time. For us, we just have had these autoclaves. And so we haven't had that change over it's a lot more efficient on fitting substrate in them. And they're designed for mushroom production. So they're really nice, because they were just they're just really nice, but they're expensive, and they're large, and you have to ship them over again, for bagging machines, I would say definitely is the easiest, was it
for people who have never stepped foot in a mushroom farm and maybe have just bought a kit online or have seen them? And maybe don't know what, like the word autoclave or bag or mixer mean? Can you maybe give like a one on one starting from, like, procuring the substrate or making a mix all the way to fruiting. Like, how does that process work? How do people how do you guys grow mushrooms?
Unknown Speaker 29:26
So we start out with raw material. So I'm gonna explain my site in my saving, because it's different than the new site that we have. But basically we get raw material which is it's a hardwood line, and we get that from a cabinetry maker. So it's a waste product. So it's really nice. We get truckload delivered dumped down, we will age our solders for three months. And that that process is you know, the dry wood. There's still shutters and things and so it adds the moisture into it but also those sugars Will you know, microbes will break them down and so to clean up the sawdust, a little bit aged and To get the moisture content, right, we will just keep it on the wharf and then we have multiple piles and when a pile is empty, then we turn it in, so it kind of turns it, you'll see a little bit of spike in here somewhere in the middle. And then the final product is just much more the structures better. It's a cleaner product. Even though we are sterilizing, it's good to make all your raw materials nice and clean. So then that's, that's our main ingredient. And then we have large ribbon mixers, which are just kind of look like a very large cement mixer, but not like a shred but basically like a bucket a big bucket, they can hold about 4000 pounds of material. And then we add the sawdust in there. My mixers have a weight cell and computer control. So basically, the operator just has to press put the moisture content of the sawdust in because that is a variable because it's outside and so we could rain or it could be more dry. So if the dry weight analysis, initially, they put the moisture content in a variety of mushroom that they want to grow. And then the mixer will tell them okay, this much sawdust and then this much rice bran and all the different ingredients. Then when everything is reached correctly, it starts mixing water is added when that when the correct amount of water is being added it will keep mixing a slight gate will open automatically. And then it'll start unloading it. I have two mixers on my my line. And so basically the second mixer is more or less like a hopper, it's the same size as the other mixer, but that will allow me to continuously mix so when the other one is empty, it goes into the other, the other mixer and then I can then fill that one again. So I can continuously mix I never stop mixing that second hopper mixer is then has a an auger that goes into
Unknown Speaker 31:39
basically goes into another unit that will disperse the sawdust into the two baggers. And these baggers have a carousel design. So the machine automatically picks up the bag, and then it will grab it and then put it into like a form. And then that form will switch. And each one will either dump this out. So the first one is dumping sawdust. The next one, a plunger comes down, and it compresses the sawdust and it also pokes two holes into the substrate, and then it unloads it. And so why the white does that is we don't, we're not going to shake our bags, we're just gonna top spot and then those holes will allow the mycelium to get in inside the block more effectively. So that those products are bagged, and then they're loaded onto metal carts that will go into the autoclave, which is a pressure vessel. And we'll cook it for around four hours at 254 degrees Fahrenheit 121 Celsius. And at 15 psi, that's how we reach that our autoclaves are double doors. So one is the outside where we load it. And the second one opens into the cleanroom. The cleanroom is positive pressure. So there's only filtered air coming in. So there's no contaminants in the air. And then we allow that to cool down overnight. And we will, we will not spawn the substrate unless it's below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. And then we will spawn it on a table with my guys, and then we'll throw it into a band sealer, we also do have a machine that automatically will open the bag and put spawn in there. But I don't like it. So we haven't been using it as much the Japanese system, they're very sensitive with their blocks. And so the sealer only makes like a very skinny little line on it. The sealer that I have now is it's it's like a Doughboy I don't know, if you haven't experienced it's like a band sealer and it makes like a little bit stronger seal. And so I'm just I never really liked that. And also, the automatic spawning machine has a hopper and I get a little worried about just like you're dumping spawn in there. And then we do Do for change outs on it. But still, you know, you can lose about 1000 bags, if you put bad spawn in. So I don't know, it's just, it's been working fine. But I don't like to see you. So I want to make it differently and make it a little more user friendly. But we're always testing new machines and investing in automation, just to see the future of where we need to be. And I always tell people, like, if you can invest, like, do it now, because it's really a learning curve. And that's the main thing is like, you need to understand how these machines work. So because you know, in, you know, five years, 10 years from now you're going to need it, because you're not gonna have enough people to work. And labor is going to be 10 times more expensive. And then you're gonna go, Oh, I need this machine. And there's about you know, I would say, a year of working with these systems to make sure like, you know, they break machines break, you got to fix them, you got to have the right people to Who do you call, you know, so how are you going to understand it? So I, I put all these lines in. And I've also invested my time into understanding these these machines. Of course, I don't know everything, but I can fix them when they break.
Have you heard of myco systemics is a startup to my knowledge and I'm not sure what their status is now but they are basically wanting to bring mushroom farming infrastructure to the United States and they have some really impressive people on their board like mathematicians from like Coca Cola or something. I'm looking into it now but yeah, this is a good sign but you Taking the infrastructure seriously. And we'll hopefully, potentially develop the equipment in the United States for the United States for mushroom farming.
Yeah, I mean, they couldn't, it's not that expensive, really, you know, that they've already in Japan, they've already spent the money and on the on that equipment, because they already had the industry to back it up, you know, you're not making a prototype, you're making hundreds of these things selling to all these different Japanese baggers. So, you know, it could be made here, but like, when I've had done foreign tours, and I had people from Silicon Valley, you know, they would look at this machine, they're like, Yeah, that would cost $300,000. And I'm like, Yeah, I didn't pay that. So, you know, you could make it here. But you're probably better off making parts of it, or getting part of it there and then adapting it here, or, you know, getting a person to like, make it the way you want type of thing. That's what I used to do to a lot of machines, either I buy used or I buy new, and then I make it the way I want it type of thing. So, you know, for the you know, the mixer, and the scale, the scale was the scale guy locally, but the mixture came from, you know, Japan, and, you know, my, my orders that I use I got from a strawberry processor that went out of business, and I, you know, don't use those, and then you know, certain things, I'll buy new, I can't find it. And I'll buy a lot used, you know, so it just depends, you know, what, when you need to put a project together, and they're not that smart, you know, they don't have to be there. They're just following a sequence. Most of them, you know, they're just going, Okay, I pick up the bag, you know, move the bag, and this and then they all have little sensors along the way. And if one sensor isn't on, right, so stop, and then just everything stops, and you got to figure out what the hell is going on. So you know, that's, they're not that smart. They're not, you know, but, but then they have the market to do that if I had to make one of these things, I'm sure it would cost me you know, hundreds of 1000s of dollars, but because they already are making it and they have an industry so you can kind of go there.
So once these bags are inoculated and sealed. What next,
Unknown Speaker 36:50
transport racks. So we we get these racks from China that are they're called Dutch flower cards. So they have like wheels on them, you usually see them in the nursery industry. So they're really nice, are pretty cheap. You know, they come together, you can kind of connect them we have shelves on him. So we'll roll those, we'll forklift those into our incubation room. Depending on the incubation room, one incubation room can hold 30,000 bags, so that's some of our larger ones. And so go into incubation to depending on the type of writing our largest production issue talki we do about 15,000 bags of coffee substrate a week. So that will sit in a room for 12 weeks. And, and then, you know, oyster or Lion's Mane or King trumpet, they all have different times. So you're talking three to five weeks incubation. And after they're fully colonized, we will then move them into fruiting rooms. And we will put them on shelves and we will either slip the bags or completely remove the bags and then fruit the blocks and get them pick our mushrooms. They go to our packaging. So we have you know arcia talkies we size. So a lot a lot of smaller growers aren't doing that. But for our market, it demands us to do babies medium, we have a number to grade which is just like a little misshapen. I'm always like, when I'm on Instagram I look at people should talkies I'm like dude, I wish I could sell like the most blown out talkies ever. But so we have to have like anything that's a little flat or ruffled. That's a number two and anything that's perfectly rounded, nice. That's number one. And then our sizing is medium or large or baby and, and depending on the customer. We might do clamshells for small packs and then and then about 20 25% goes to our farmers markets and then the rest go to our larger wholesaler. So we supply all the whole foods in California with other exotics for the rise that we grow. And then we do all the rallies which is another grocery store chain and some other larger organic wholesalers that throughout the California market. And that and then we have our retail stores.
And for people at home who think about kits for me, right?
Yes, and we have our mushroom kits and then you can also order all our products online. And then we also our big mushroom broker. So we do buying selling of all varieties and mushrooms. So throughout the year we will sell over 50 something varieties of mushrooms, dried to you know, trash to truffles to every everything in between. We can pretty much get you any mushroom you want if you need it, and we sell cultures, and we have our own spawn production. And we do some cryo for storage of long term storage if people need that we were willing to do that. And then we sell some things like bags and machines and everything in between.
Awesome you guys are playing it on the west coast. Do you do plans to expand at all?
Um, no, I don't know we have two two sites. The one in Ossining is like over 80,000 square feet and then the one in St. Maarten we just purchased is around 50,000. So I mean we're pretty We still have room to grow a little bit. And so until I run out of space, I'm not gonna buy another farm, or they tell me I can't buy another farm, maybe that's mostly what I get. But I would like to I don't know that we grow a lot of different varieties. But I think I might be interested in buying doing some Americans production. At some point, they my family's not as pro on that. But I would like to add another variety and another system to my knowledge, and that's what I like to do. But I'm, I'm just the grower, so I don't do the sales. And that's I have three other brothers and they're all in the business. So one is in charge of the farmers market. One does like larger accounts. And then one is in charge of like our, our stores. And we also have a warehouse where you are mushroom jerkies. And our we have a outside of San Francisco. So we have a commercial kitchen, and we do some products. So it's all broken up. But my main focus is the growing aspect of the business. So
yeah. Do you guys have a lot of fun together? When you're off o'clock? like talking about? Are you just sick of it, and you don't want to talk about anything?
I like talking about mushrooms, maybe they're a little more sick of it. But no, we have a lot of fun together, we all get along. We've always worked together. So we're doing, we always we are in our own, everyone's in their own areas. So it really helps, you know, you're not really stepping on each other's toes. Because everyone's specialized. And they pick what they want. They all studied business, and I did bio. So we just picked our own kind of areas of expertise, I think. So worked out.
Question. A lot of the bigger mushroom farms I talked to don't deal with the actual culturing or the genetics, they just kind of get them by small people. Do you guys do that? Yeah,
we have we have our own strains. I mean, the different Yeah, we do all our own spawn production, and cultures and all that stuff. We don't we're not breeding. But I mean, we hold our all our cultures and stuff like that. Yeah. So
Unknown Speaker 41:52
we have Do you have like,
Unknown Speaker 41:53
liquid nitrogen tanks and stuff like that?
Oh, sweet. So you have one master culture that's grown like hundreds of 1000s of pounds of a particular mushroom?
Unknown Speaker 42:01
I love back in Kansas, our farms not that big at all. But I can't imagine taking out this tiny Algar slant from your cryo, and then looking at it, and thinking about the massive amount of weight and food and nutrition that this little Fuzzball has given you. It's
pretty Yes, yes, yes. Yeah. No, I mean, it's pretty amazing how you can go from like this, and then it just expands and expands and expands. And then you know, how many mushrooms come from that is very interesting. And then we're always watching for if something doesn't look right, of course, then we get rid of it. And it is mutation. But we feel like we had a pretty good system. And we haven't seen any serious things for how we go about it. But, of course, you know, we will do some cloning of clones and stuff. But yeah, it is cool. It gets pretty geeky, but it's fun.
What advice would you give people that are just starting out with? Maybe they've never gotten a kit before they want to start growing mushrooms? What kind of species would you recommend? What supplies would they need for first time mushroom growers.
So I would say most of the oyster species aren't really easy to grow. And so I would start with some variety of oyster, if you're in a cooler place, maybe not the tropical varieties that maybe stay away from like the pink and yellow. But I would say yeah, a nice blue or white oyster would be easy to start out with. And if you want to do a straw material, which is relatively, you know, relatively stable, you don't really have to add much supplementation to that. And you can just boil it in a big 55 gallon barrel, and then cool it down and then spawn the heck out of it. So you can buy some spawn from us or any other supplier. If you want to get more into, you know, producing your own genetics or, you know, doing your own spawn production. I would say you should at least invest in a flow hood to have clean a clean environment. But if you're just looking to just grow some mushrooms, yeah, I would say some oysters, some straw, a barrel, some propane, some fire, maybe you get, Yeah, that'd be the simplest or, or the garden giants, you know, some surface area would be nice. And you can do that in your backyard. And that's pretty easy. And if you're interested in doing Pataki or some other really wood lovers, you can cut some logs, get some Dalles or get some satisfaction and drill some holes. So that's where I would start out if you're just starting out, do some simple cultivation projects. Those would be what I would start with initially because it's fine and you can do it with a bunch of people and maybe tree fell down. You're like, Oh, we need to grow mushrooms on it.
Is there anything else you want our listeners to know about farwest fungi or the mushroom industry that we didn't cover?
I think one thing about mushroom farming is it is very addictive. And it's really amazing. When you do something you put your energy into it and then something grows out of it. And, and I'm excited to see how this industry is growing. And more interest is is great because the more people that are talking about mushrooms or fungi in general, I think it's, it's, it's been necessary now forever. Because I mean, just in research and developing, the industries that are developed now will also fund the research in the future. And that's one of the things I've learned from being working in labs and other things is that, like, you have to have an industry built around it. And then, you know, when these farms that are small, start investing in new systems or systems that we can all talk about, I think that will be the game changer, then you'll start seeing have a lot more investment. And people really wanting to jump on to the mushroom. Mushroom bandwagon, hopefully. And then all the older something and then just talk about mushrooms all day. So Well, yeah, yeah. And then also forest panda is always helpful, always happy to help anyone that is trying to grow big or small. I, my specialty is much more for large scale cultivation. And so if there is someone that's in between there, or a farmer that's looking for the next jump, I'm very happy to work with them and help them and tell them not to do certain things that might be costly. Because I think that's always very important. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 46:19
But thank you for having me. And I'm happy to talk about mushrooms.
So last question, we always ask everyone, if mushrooms had the mic, and you'd say one thing to the whole human race? What would they say?
I was thinking about the question. So they had the mic. I think they would say like, in my opinion that we've always been here. And we're glad that now people are paying attention because they have a lot to offer. From medicine to food. And, and I think they're happy that we're all paying attention now.
Beautiful. Yeah. And for people and mostly people in California in the US. Where can people find you? Or your website XYZ forest, windy,
calm. You can find us on Instagram for fungi. And then I'm Kava Roni, on Instagram. And you can always direct message me about questions about cultivation. I do post some videos, not I'm not the best. But I'll post things that are very mushroom oriented in production. I'll just say that. So it's not as everything forest fungi, it's much more focused on like large scale mushroom farming and machines, a lot of machines I'll post stuff like that
I've been dying to go to one of your Farmers Market stands because I've seen pictures and there's like dozens of different varieties either harvest to forage somewhere or grown or whatever, wherever all the different colors and shapes and names and it's it's awesome. I would spend way too much money they're just getting a little bag and every single one is really dangerous.
Definitely. Yeah, you know, there's a lot of awesome mushrooms and I'm very lucky that I can eat mushrooms all week and then also when certain ones are in season I can also get some porcinis or morels and so it's always I'm always lucky in that way.
Cool. Well thank you for coming on. And thank you everyone for tuning in and chiming in with us wherever you are in the world and if you have any questions please reach out and or feature topics you want us to talk about guests you want us to bring on our show. As always go to our site mushroom revival calm we have a bunch of blogs and all of our podcasts their full line of functional mushroom products and we love you for sending a big hug to everyone wherever you're tuning in from and as always much love and may the force be with you.