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FUNGITAINER: Innovative Modular and Mobile Indoor Farm for Mushrooms and Substrate Production

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FUNGITAINER (FUNGITAINER: Innovative Modular and Mobile Indoor Farm for Mushrooms and Substrate Production)

Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2017-05-31

The increasing recognition of mushrooms’ properties has boosted their consumption around the world but their production is naturally limited to the countries where environmental conditions are favourable for their growth. In the rest of countries, costly indoor facilities are required or mushroom must be imported directly. Due to their highly perishable nature, mushrooms are mostly transported once they have been processed (canned, dried or frozen) although consumption patterns suggest consumers’ preference for fresh product. On the other hand, growers who want to succeed in the sector encounter serious limitations, related to the difficulty to have guaranteed a constant and cost-effective supply of substrate (the limited number of substrate producers results in higher prices and the need to deliver the product to a different country or even continent is also supported by the grower, reducing their profitability) and the high initial investment costs required to build and operate an indoor fixed facility, which stops new growers to enter the business.

The Spanish company Hongo’s Biofactory has developed the Fungitainer system, a modular farm system housed inside shipping containers. The system is composed by the Fungitainer Substrate container, for high-efficiency substrate production and the Fungitainer Grow container, which provides the optimum controlled environment for growing any edible and medicinal mushroom anywhere in the world (regardless of the outdoor conditions) all year round. Besides, substrate is produced making use of local agriculture and livestock waste, valorising these residues (in line with the Circular Economy approach). Thanks to Fungitainer modularity and low investment cost (90% cheaper than traditional solutions), the system adapts to meet the needs of small and large-scale growers. Investment is recovered in 1.9 years. Fungitainer solution also includes support during the whole production process thanks to Hongo’s Biofactory extensive expertise.
Currently, Fungitainer full methodology has been demonstrated in a relevant environment (TRL 6), specifically in the pilot plant that the Mushroom Research Technological Centre (CTICH) has in La Rioja (Spain). For reaching this point, Hongo’s Biofactory has carried out key activities thanks to the Spanish funds for Research & Development activities (Economic Development Agency of La Rioja): ▪ Preliminary selection of the most suitable mushroom species and strains to be cultivated; ▪ Raw material physicochemical characterization; ▪ Package selection; ▪ Sterilization process parameterization; ▪ First designs of the modules and ▪ Cultivation of some selected mushroom species using the full methodology during the whole cultivation cycle. However, some specific adjustments were required before FUNGITAINER introduction in the market, related to the need to identify the most suitable mushroom species to enter the market and to adapt and equip shipping containers to get a mobile and modular indoor farm system.
Nowadays, there are two types of mushroom-production systems: the cultivation under natural conditions (outdoor cultivation) or in controlled environments (indoor cultivation). Outdoor Natural Log Cultivation requires simple and low-cost technologies and infrastructure but only a few species can be cultivated with this technique and mushrooms are permanently affected by weather conditions. Besides, fruiting occurs seasonally (mushrooms are produced when supplies are greatest and prices are lowest) and takes more time (6 to 18 months after inoculation, depending on the climatic conditions and strains used) compared to indoor cultivation. In relation to Indoor Cultivation in Fixed Facilities, the cultivation takes place in a sterilized building where light, humidity and the ambient level of CO2 are controlled and varied according to the specific stage in crop development. Thanks to controlled environment, mushrooms are cultivated all year round (which allows a predictable and stable cash flow) and growers obtain higher yields in shorter production times in comparison with outdoor production. However, the initial set-up cost (about €2.5M) is too high for most beginning growers. Moreover, operating the conditions requires technically skilled personnel and with high yields and short production cycles, harvest windows are short and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the tasks.

Our Fungitainer systems gather the benefits from indoor cultivation (enables mushroom growth regardless of the outdoor conditions, the production keeps steady throughout the year and yields are higher) with the characteristics of modularity, scalability and low investment costs, which make the system being totally adaptable to meet small- and large-scale growers’ needs.

Fungitainer is also a sustainable solution since it contributes to farm organic waste management, encouraging the production of value-added bedding materials from agricultural by-products. Material recovery is in line with the principles from the ambitious action plan EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy and the Bioeconomy Strategy.
Initial design of the Fungitainer containers