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Thistle Dew Family Fungi Farm.

A working model by Theresa and Charles Kuhn.
Farming without fields.

Background: We are a married couple of thirty years a with strong culinary and accounting backgrounds.
These skill sets were developed over years in the pursuit of owning and operating our own restaurants.
I started young working kitchens and learned how the back of the house worked. Theresa on the other hand worked the front of the house waitressing and in the offices learning the bookkeeping and accounting side of the trade. We met and over the years we acquired the skills it took to bring food service concepts to reality and along the way owned several of our own establishments. We are now on a very different path.

Our goal is to create a environmentally compatible and scalable home enterprise. Based on using the local climatic environment to create an affordable and sustainable production method for a highly marketable quality food protein via raising oyster mushrooms in particular the "Pleurotus ostreatus" in semi outdoor to completely outdoor and other compatible settings. By using warm and cold weather varieties a year round cropping cycle are achievable.

1. Oyster mushrooms are 35% protein and are an exponential y renewable crop if desired, expanding every 45 days. Given to grow natively in this region there is very little in environment management costs or utilities are needed helping to make this a great economic model for small to medium production with a minimum of operating costs.

2. Oyster Mushrooms do not ship well nor do the have a long shelf life making local production an asset.
This leaves naturally occurring market for local fresh coastal production and distribution while reducing the competition from any of the more complex long chain distribution systems based on longer delivery times and trucking fuel costs.

3. Oyster mushrooms have a  well established culinary market value that currently sustains an $8.50 per lb price wholesale in this area. We have found many more restaurants locally who want to buy mushrooms then we can currently supply.
We have also found that the Portland Wholesale Produce Distribution markets "90 minuets away" have shown great interest in at least "verbal I'll take all you can get" agreements and exclusive distribution rights to phone queries about basic market supply and needs research. We have not even checked the Seattle market. We thought it a good idea to start with a half dozen local clients. Finding the clients was easy.

 With this knowledge in hand we started doing our due diligence. We began researching what the current standards, practices and production of mushroom were.  WE researched growing technique from the 3rd world for supplemental dietary protein to Asian agriculture approach to the industrial fungi farming in the west. Via the Internet we sourced and downloaded several university studies on mushroom production. We bought a series of publications in book form and on DVD teaching the proper skills and tools for spore propagation and spawning mycelium.

 We quickly began to get a little disheartened as we read about autoclaves big enough to drive a forklift into just to sterilize the sub-straight. Then on to the spawning room and its lab like sterile requirements. Also then the flushing room and its sterile, lighting and humidity requirements. And lets not forget the cold room for shocking the spawn to make it fruit. Also a water misting system with timers to control humidity at 85 to 90 percent. Most studies agree that the amount of space and energy consumed in producing a controlled environment and the biologist and technical staff make most mushroom farms risky and with a smaller return then needed for a large venture. The insect issues that occurs call for a transitional clean room before you enter the fruiting areas. Also indoor growing presents another hazard. The concentration of air born mushroom spoor is a known respiratory hazard limiting the time a worker can be exposed to a closed growing environment. This leads to another downfall of large indoor production, labor turnover.

I found the approach surprising as these mushrooms grow all over in my yard and in the alder woods all around here.
In all the world the SW Washington coast has more oyster mushroom varieties then any where else on the planet.
Then with a more critical eye and a closer study of the data an over looked gem of information was discovered.  
 

Based on the fact that unlike any other species of mushroom, oyster mushroom propagation can be achieved directly from each fresh fruiting. Once the sub-straight is active with mycelium it can be divided for propagation at a 10 to 1 ratio up to 10 times. This exponential growth quickly leads to potential volume that is astounding.

We have come up with a system for growing that eliminates the need for the sterile environment, watering and misting system are also negated. The intent is to manage the ongoing high energy cost traditionally associated with mushroom production to as close to zero as possible by exploiting the natural growing climate of this area. 

We use an old tried and true method of controlled environment growing. The terrarium! Each one designed to hold an individual container to carry sub-straight mycelium to the spawn all the way through the fruiting cycle. These terrariums live outdoors in the native environment among the trees in dapple light fresh air and morning dew. Because the terrarium offers a controlled environment in a native outdoor setting all of the spoor risks are dispersed by the total air volume of the planet.

The units are also screened ventilation ports that control the insect problem and also controlled the needed carbon dioxide to oxygen ratios in balance and a constant 90% relative humidity that is so important and normally so difficult to achieve is now naturally occurring with each sunrise.

The terrariums are made from two pieces of commonly available plastic boxes and have been chosen because they are a one time purchase and reusable year after year. Current cost per unit is about 10.00 retail and 15 minuets time to adapt them for use. A deep discount can be had for volume.

Working example:
Last summer I bought some white oyster spawn and put down a one cubic foot container of straw sub-straight and let it grow. After the first flush of 3 lbs of fruit I divided the container into 4 new containers and let them flourish and then fruit. I then divided each of those four baskets to seed four more each now yielding 16 growing baskets. Although a ratio of 10 to 1 can be used I choose 4 to 1 for a higher success rate faster spawning and had no failures to re-spawn in new baskets. I then next multiplied the 16 by a ratio of 2 to one giving me 32 terrarium with a 50/50 spawn to new sub-straight mix under production as we had not more then 350.00 saved for the new terrariums. We then harvested the successive fruitings, ate well and sold the difference over the next three months

 I have now collected 40 terrariums and have new fresh spawn down to get the propagation rolling for this summer, fall season of white oysters.  That still leaves us unable to keep up with the growth rate of the next needed 128 terrariums to accommodate the next level of a 4 to 1 expansion. The next expansion after that at a multiple of 4 would then need 512 new units At this point there should be about 750 units in production and the the next one would be 1024 new units yielding 2000 working units growing and harvesting oyster mushrooms and so on. The expansion quickly out paced my ability to afford the expansion. Each unit can produce between 5 and 10 pounds of product per cycle @ 8.50 a pound low market value.

The low end potential for each unit can be zero due to unforeseen crop failure.
If a low average only 3 lbs per unit is achieved each unit would bring $25.50 per unit


By products:
The spent sub-straight is recycled into earthworm beds. This medium is perfect for the feeding and fast proliferation of “giant night crawler” producing an abundant crop of bait or garden worms. Along with producing a reduced and active source of “new soil” for  selling or we encourage amending ones own vegetable beds.


Our ultimate goal would be to set up with help and support, a co-op of small to medium local growers to expand into the Portland and Seattle wholesale distribution market. There is the potential to help the whole of Pacific County if this becomes a well defined and economically developed co-op of small to medium mushroom growers.

Any interest or support in this project is greatly appreciated.
We thank you for your time and consideration.
Charles and Theresa Kuhn.
Tel 1 360 777 0066
50 hungry harbor lane
Naselle Washington 98638



Links and references

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XI5frPV58tY&feature=player_embedded
 
 

Contact me at admin @ atomsmiths.com Phone 1- 360- 777- 0066 50 Hungry Harbor Lane Naselle Wa.  98638

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