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US (NY): Mushroom producers steadily moving to automated farms

"The ultimate goal is to have minimal human involvement in the farm(s), as for now it's quite labor intense. The idea of having a facility that's run off a cell phone is pretty cool, therefore the AI we're using is trained to show the various stages of mushroom growth. Eventually, we'll have to be able to harvest these automatically, yet the data has to be tagged and educated on the robotics," says Solomon Ibragimov, one of the co-founders of Mushroom Direct.

Continuing to explain his desire for automation Solomon explains that, "the farm has formatted settings and conditions for every single parameter a strain needs as every one is different. The farm is entirely controlled by an iPad or cellphone as everything can be executed remotely."

Nestled in the heart of Queens, Mushroom Direct aims to blend urban farming tradition with technology allowing them to cultivate their mushrooms. Remarkably, its fungi don't grow in the ground; instead, they thrive in meticulously designed environments, optimized for their flourishing. Sprouted by four friends who are entrepreneurs by heart, they shared a common passion that led them to found Mushroom Direct.

The co-founders

"Our journey has not just been about growing mushrooms; it has been about pioneering an ecosystem that celebrates life at every stage. It's about realizing that waste is not an end, but a beginning to something new and valuable," say co-founders Solomon Ibragimov, Shimon Yushanayev, Avrom Kaykov, and Arthur Bangiev of Mushroom Direct.

"Our urban farm became a sanctuary for growing exotic, functional mushrooms, and a laboratory for implementing sustainable agricultural practices. Our mushrooms are not just grown; they are nurtured with quality, organic agricultural waste like legume hulls, tree waste, and brewers' spent grain, repurposing what others might see as waste into valuable nutrients," Solomon shared.

Available across organic and specialty stores, mainly in Queens and Manhattan, Mushroom Direct distributes its nine varieties of locally cultivated mushrooms: Blue Oyster mushrooms, Chestnuts mushrooms, Enoki mushrooms, Golden Oyster mushrooms, Grey Oyster mushrooms, King Trumpet mushrooms, Lions Mane mushrooms, Mediterranean Oyster mushrooms, and Pink Oyster mushrooms. Yet, twelve different species are cultivated on request, whereas nine main varieties are distributed to local retailers.

Some of the products that are up for sale in local stores

Self-developed traceability system
Given Mushroom Direct is USDA and GAP (organically) certified, every batch is marked with a number and QR code to trace the product during and after its growth. The system used to monitor the mushrooms, their productivity, and their health is developed by Mushroom Direct itself.

Solomon gladly shares that, "The BETA version will be launched next Friday in our farms, whereas next month it will be available to other farmers looking to become organic and having this traceability capability. Having this as a public option knowing where the product was grown, who it was harvested by, and when it was harvested? It's the next generation."

Shimon Yushanayev showing off a badge of mushrooms

Incorporating sustainability throughout the supply chain
"This circular economy model we are developing, not only produces fresh, organic mushrooms but also gives birth to biofuel, enabling us to power our farm and complete the circle of sustainability."

Post-harvest, the spent mushroom substrate, enriched with organic matter, is upcycled by Mushroom Direct to nourish worms at the rooftop of its facility in a special chamber. These worms create castings, a potent, all-natural fertilizer for other plants, effectively converting waste into nutrient-rich soil, which other producers can eventually use.

Mixed organic ingredients like various grain hulls, sawdust & calcium form the ideal substrates which are sterilized to guarantee the elimination of any contaminats. Thereafter the grow bags are innoculated with fungi spores via organic colonized maize, in a sterile lab to ensure the preferred products will end up at the end of the growth cycle. Using AI, sensors, and software to monitor their products and other key elements for cultivation, Mushroom Direct can constantly produce the best possible products for consumers to enjoy.

To avoid contaminations as you'd sometimes see with wild mushrooms, Solomon explains that "we focus on the strains that are easier to grow in a controlled environment. All 12 strains grown at our farms are commercially available across the United States on a very small scale but some are very exclusive."

For more information:
Mushroom Direct
+ 1 877 692 8835
91-36 182nd Place
Queens, NY 11423
United States
[email protected]