Application Station: Mushrooms

The remarkable fungi known as mushrooms add a plethora of medicinal, culinary, and utilitarian value to our daily lives. Many studies are looking at the adoption of psychoactive mushrooms for treatment of mental health conditions, and even recreational use has become a topic of discussion for some of these spores. Truffles, oysters, and portabellas enrich our palate by adding flavor and texture to our meals. Let's not understate the utility of mushrooms either; research on mushroom-derived plastic replacements and bandages show shitakes are nothing shy of amazing.

On a casual stroll in the woods, we see boundless species of strange looking mushrooms covering the ground, but how do we cultivate specific mushrooms? With the growing demand across a number of industries, how are people keeping up supply? Let's take a dive into mycology and how laminar flow clean benches can optimize results by minimizing introduced contamination.

Life Cycle of a Mushroom in the Wild

Life Cycle of a Mushroom in the Wild

Your moldy bread tucked away in a dark cabinet - fungus! The rings seen in your perfectly manicured yard - fungus! Fungus is everywhere. Mushrooms, like other living organisms, have basic needs. Often known as decomposers, they break down organic material and use it to fuel their life cycle, reproduce, and spread. This life cycle involves a close relationship with plants and other organisms. Let's use a tree and the oyster mushroom as an example.

We start with death. As leaves or branches fall to the ground, they become fuel for the mushroom. The fungus then begins its life cycle as spores land on the dead debris and begin to create a network. Producing threads called hyphae, they create a complex network known as mycelium. 

This structure releases enzymes into the dead wood and breaks it down into energy. As it grows, the structure produces mushrooms similar to fruit growing on a tree. These mushrooms employ a variety of tactics to deliver spores for the next generation. From the decomposed plant debris, new plant life can grow like a phoenix from the ashes.

Growing Mushrooms in a Controlled Environment

We talked about bread in the pantry, but why stop there? Ever buy berries from the grocery store and, by the time your car is parked in the garage, they are whiter and longer than Santa's beard? Fungus is among us. Quite literally, fungus is everywhere! When cultivating high end truffles, avoiding undesirable spores is key. Like a security guard at a concert, only those with tickets are welcomed in to ensure a controlled environment.

Starting with mushroom spawn or spores, a substrate or growing medium is selected. Substrates typically depend on the variety of mushroom. Oyster mushrooms, for example, can make their home nearly anywhere, people even grow them on coffee grounds. Once the right substrate is selected, inoculation can begin, this is when the spores are added to the substrate. Keeping things clean can be crucial in preventing unwanted molds and maximizing yields. Depending on the mushroom species, agar plates and media may be used to initiate the growth of hyphae.

AirClean Systems Process Protection products offer a simple solution for keeping cultures and substrates free from introduced contamination. Our vertical laminar flow workstation offers an ISO 5 miniature clean environment, perfect for working with growth media and agar plates. This particulate-free environment prevents unwanted spores in the environment from growing on the media.

For fruiting mushrooms, a horizontal laminar flow clean bench offers increased space for the hyphae to grow and expand. This laminar flow clean bench can also employ an optional UV light to prevent contamination between uses. The full UV sash design allows for a closed environment when not handling the mushrooms and helps prevent introduced contamination.

When working with gourmet mushrooms that can take months to properly cultivate, preventing contamination and unwanted molds is vital for a healthy crop. To maximize yields and profits, keeping out the unwanted fungi is key to growing the right ones well. AirClean Systems offers a variety of units to prevent contamination, enhance your yield, and help you grow your best mushrooms yet. Call one of AirClean Systems' technical specialists at (919) 255-3220 to help you find the perfect controlled environment for growing your fungus!