An Unbiased Evaluation
With increased competition from overseas imported fresh mushrooms, automation is the key to survival and profit. Think and evaluate before you plunge in!
Japan cultivates many mushrooms in bottles, among them are Flammulina velutipes several Pleurotus strains, including P. eryngii, P. ostreatus, P. abalones, Agroccybe, Coprinus, Tremella, Hericium, Ganoderma etc. However, Shiitake, Grifola and several other mushrooms are cultivated in bags, not bottles. In other countries including countries in North America, cultivators prefer PP and PE bags. Advantages of bag cultivation is that it is practical, and users of bags can start small and grow as the market grows. A grower can start out with very little capital expenditure. An autoclave whether large or small, like a type 941 is the only major capital equipment required. Growers will be able to tune their operation to suit the market.
Virtually, any mushroom can be grown in bags including Flammulina velutipes, or enoke, and with uniformity too. Apart from economics, bags can produce larger crops and tune production to suit the needs of the market, for example to delay fruiting. Bag cultivation is more flexible than other methods, which means one can vary substrate mix and mushroom strains more readily. As far as marketing in North America is concerned, any locality including all major cities that have a population of a few million are potentially good markets for specialty mushrooms. However, any areas including some parts of California, cannot compete with Japan. The mushroom consumption in any area of Japan is many times that of the US.
Per Capita consumption of specialty mushrooms in the the US, Canada, Mexico and for that matter most parts of the World outside Japan are much less and therefore, marketing and production of specialty mushrooms cannot copy that in Japan. In bag cultivation bags are used once and discarded.
Major specialty mushrooms in the US and Canada are still shiitake, and pleurotus, and because of the preferred foods are different, and cooking methods are different and whatever is preferred in Japan may not be a matter of choice in North America.
Advantages of bottle cultivation are uniformity of fruiting, ease of picking, and mechanization. Disadvantages include high capital expenditure on machinery, bottles, caps and trays, limitation on size of mushrooms, inflexible substrate mix without sacrifice on bio efficiency. By choosing uniformity of fruiting, one sacrifices flexibility in production. Bottles are designed to fruit only once and cleaned out, and the size of a bottle, subsequently the amount of substrate is designed to fruit the amount of mushrooms appearing at the mouth of the bottle. Therefore if a bottle is designed for enoke, and if the same bottle is used to cultivate a different fungi, the bio-efficiency will be lower.Machines needed are quite numerous, depending on how much mechanization one wishes to achieve, and the amount of capital available. In general, apart from a ribbon mixer, the following machines are needed:
- Several conveyors from machine to machine,
- A Bottle filler, and capper which fill the prepared sawdust mix into bottles, usually 12 to 16 bottles at a time and places a filter cap on each bottle.
- Stacker, which picks a number of trays (12 -16 bottles) and stacks them on carts for autoclaving.
- Square autoclave and carts.
- Cooling room with filtered air that will cool the discharged bottles,
- Spawning machine which removes the cap, and scrapes some spawn from spawn bottles,
- A machine automatically flame sterilizes the mouth of the spawn bottle.
- Bottle cleaning machine, which scraps the picked bottles 16 at a time. Usually 2 or 3 such machines are used as a unit.
- Associated conveyors for spent substrate. These machines are fed and discharged by one machine operator.
- Cap cleaner machine uses water to clean caps.
- After incubation, a machine to remove caps.
- A scrapping and pressing machine, to prepare the top of substrate to fruit uniformly.
About 234,000 bottles are needed at a cost of about 65 cents a bottle. About 500,000 caps are needed, at a cost of about 10 cents each. Bottle and caps are estimated at 3,000 bottles per hour, 2 hours a day, 3 days a week, 15 weeks per cycle, at the cost of $0.65 each:
Bottle investment will be almost $150,000.00
An estimate of machinery cost is $350,000.00
500,000 caps @ 0.10 each $ 50,000.00
Trays cost (14,000)@1.85 ea. cost $30.000.00
Total Cost: $580,000.00
A reasonable pay back period of this capital investment must be calculated based on whether all production of such a bottle plant can be absorbed by the locan market. Will a plant like this produce several mushroom types? And if so, at what additional cost?
Building design is geared for high bottle cultivation and machinery as well as a logical flow of processing. For this reason, a building design must take into account of the market, and is not suitable for a small farmer to grow as he modifies his rooms. Plenty of air conditioning and heating must be taken into account during building design and layout. into the building design.
In bag cultivation, initiation of fruiting can be soaking the substrate block in water. In bottle culture, initiation is by reducing temperature. This means higher energy cost. Cleaning of the spawning machine is done daily by blowing sawdust off machines and spills. Stainless steel fabrication for cleaning with water is generally not available, as stainless machines are too expensive.