For four years at his indoor farm, in a desolate, industrial corner of Tuen Mun in Hong Kong’s New Territories, Russell Kong has been experimenting with strains of a very specific crop. Kong is the founder of Urban Mushroom and is single-handedly trying to harvest edible fungus in the most eco-sensitive method possible while trying to foster an economically sustainable enterprise.
“I did a sustainable agriculture degree in the UK, and when I came back, I thought about what kind of agriculture I could go into,” Kong recalls. “My family owned a lot that used to be an old pig yard. There was a structure with a shelter and an indoor area, so it’s not compatible with vegetables that need a lot of sunlight. I thought, how can I utilize the facility? And I started researching mushrooms.”
After numerous rounds of tests and research, he decided oyster mushrooms would be most suitable for Hong Kong’s climate and conditions. In addition to space and spores, Kong still needed something else – substrate or organic material that mushrooms could be harvested from.
“You need a lot of agriculture waste for mushroom growing,” he explains. “Things like straw and compost. Hong Kong doesn’t have a lot of that, so I looked at what was in abundance. I realized I could use coffee grounds and cardboard to start. “So, I started collecting coffee grounds, asking Starbucks and Pacific Coffee. Then, I got cardboard from everywhere, including buying it from old ladies. It took me about a year to explore the right composition of the substrate and successfully grow some mushrooms.”
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