Boxing gyms and dive bars are what you'd find deep in the guts of the Valley, in and around the short stretch of Brunswick Street, west of the mall. But also a mushroom farm. 

Take a left onto Alfred Street, and left again onto Esther Street, wander down the hill, and Joel Schiller hits the switch on an enormous automatic door. It rolls open to reveal a broad, grungy warehouse with high ceilings. "Welcome to Urban Valley," Schiller says, smiling.

Urban Valley mushroom farm is a rambling space. Co-owner Schiller's unfussy desk is to the left. There's a wrinkly leather couch and a coffee table on the right. A set of fridges line a far wall. Filling much of the floor is the "main event" – an enormous fruiting room (an enclosed space that growers use to mimic mushroom-friendly environmental conditions), its immaculate white walls standing in contrast to the rest of the scene.

"We'll save it for last," Schiller says and leads the way to a back corner of the premises where lines of shelves are stacked high with sterilized, sealed bags of what looks like a white-spotted mulch. These, it turns out, are mushrooms deep in the incubation process. In each bag is a substrate of wood and soy hull (both agricultural by-products). The white Schiller points to is mycelium, a root-like structure of fungus from which mushrooms grow – a few weeks ago, the mycelia started life on simple agar plates cloned from other mushroom samples.

From here, the bags will be transferred to the fruiting room and have holes cut in the side to allow the mushrooms to grow out and into the air that's been carefully controlled for temperature and humidity. This is when the process accelerates, the mushrooms – otherworldly monster blues, fluffy coral tooths, button-like chestnuts – roughly doubling in size every 24 hours. After that, it's time to harvest.

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