Growing mushrooms in shipping containers

Okay, so you might think an article about growing mushrooms in shipping containers is a little far-fetched?

Well, what spurred us on to create this post was a short piece that was featured on Countryfile a few months ago. Following this, we looked in to how this was being done only to find the growing of mushrooms in shipping containers, well refrigerated shipping containers (as we discovered) wasn’t that far-fetched after all.

The Countryfile feature focused on Cyan Jones of Snowdonia’s The Mushroom Garden. Mr. Jones’ growing system was set up in two converted shipping containers that effectively mimic the seasons with controlled temperatures, air flow and humidity levels.

The mimicking of the seasons is key to growing the mushrooms within the shipping container and for the first part of the growing process, the system recreates the summer season. So, the container’s internal temperature is maintained at about + 25C.

To then force the mushrooms to ‘fruit’, the mushrooms are moved to a second container where the temperature is held at about + 15C, 97% humidity, about 12-hours of daylight with the air being exchanged once every 45-minutes.

After about 2-weeks, the mushrooms are ready to be harvested.

With the right cycle, Mr. Jones can harvest two times a day and grows about 100kg of mushrooms per week.

Croydon Urban Mushroom Project

A great example of a community project growing mushrooms in a shipping container is the Croydon Urban Mushrooms project. Here, this local community project collects waste coffee grounds from local cafés and uses this as the substrate on which they grow oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus).

The project then sells the mushrooms to the local community and local restaurants with the income being re-invested in to the business to make it more sustainable.

In this instance the ‘farm’ was built in a 30-foot shipping container that was custom fitted out to enable the mushrooms to grow all year round.

Mushrooms don’t need much light to grow in simply because they cannot extract any nutrients from sunlight. The other advantage of growing in darker environments is that moisture is preserved and, most importantly, mushroom spores need moisture to reproduce.

Mushrooms rely on nutrients to aid growth, not photosynthesis.

When two compatible mushroom-spores mate, mycelium is created and this is very much like the root system of the funghi.

Vertical Farming in Shipping Containers

Growing mushrooms in converted shipping containers isn’t so far fetched as it first sounds and converted shipping containers are being increasingly used to grow other produce such as herbs and salads right where they’re needed helping to reduce transport costs, eliminating the need for pesticides and reducing demand for water.

Growing produce in shipping containers is increasing in demand and in the USA, ‘Vertical Farming’ is being scaled up to warehouse sized building and in the UK, Ocado is investing in indoor farming.

Growing Mushrooms on Logs

For the home (smaller volume) grower there are a number of sources and resources available from a number of UK based companies who sell mushroom spawn through to those who supply wooden dowels that have been pre-impregnated with mushroom mycelium that are ready to be inserted in to a hardwood log.

To use the dowels successfully, you’ll need to cut suitable logs during the trees dormant season (between leaf fall in the autumn and early spring) but, dowels should be planted in to the cut log within 6-weeks of the log having been cut. This is to prevent contamination from unwanted funghi.

Logs should only be taken from healthy trees in the dormant season and then only use hardwood logs for this purpose. Woods such as oak, birch, beech, will and hazel are ideal.

The log should be about 10 – 15cm in diameter and 50cm in length. This should be sufficient space for some 10 – 15 dowels.

Depending on the diameter of your dowels, you’ll need to drill corresponding holes in the log about 15cm apart along the length of the log. The rows only need to be spaced about 7.5cm apart around the circumference of the log. You then insert the dowels in to the log and tap them into place until they are flush with the surface of the log.

Then, using wax, seal the holes where the dowels have been inserted (the ‘inoculation’ holes), any cut branch-ends and any areas of damaged bark. Do not wax the ends of the log though as moisture must be allowed in.

Place the logs in a shaded woody area (on bricks or other logs) or wrap them in black polythene and then bury them, or place them under evergreen shrubs (on bricks). Monitor the logs to see if there is any significant cracking; if there is, soak the logs for about 2-days.

Mycelium can take anywhere from 6 to 18-months to fully colonise the logs and once they are fully colonised, move them in to a warm but sheltered area that is moist and your logs should begin to bear fruit.

Fruiting and Harvesting

You’ll only get fruit when the conditions are right and you’ll then begin to see small, white nodes appearing around the inoculation points around the log and these should grow in to mushrooms with about 1-week.

To harvest the mushrooms, grasp them by the base and twist off. Each log will continue to bear fruit for about 4-weeks.

Growing Mushrooms Indoors

Use well-rotted horse manure, put in to a box and scatter the spawn across the surface. Mix this in to about 2 or 3 inches deep and then cover with damp newspaper. Please the box in a cellar, shed or garden frame but not in direct sunlight. Mushrooms do require an even temperature to grow (16C) but won’t grow in temperatures below 10C or above 20C.

You can also grow them in mushroom beds.

After about 3-weeks, the compost will have been colonised by the mycelium – you should see white threads – remove the newspaper and cover with about and inch of compost. The compost should be made of 50% peat-free compost and 50% chalk or lime. Lime is necessary as mushrooms prefer alkaline soil. Then, keep the soil moist (not wet) using either mister or very fine rose on a watering can. Your mushrooms should appear within 3 – 5 weeks.

Remove the mushrooms by twisting the caps. Continue to keep the compost moist. You should see further flushes of growth every 10-days or so.

Growing Mushrooms in Refrigerated Shipping Containers

Used refrigerated shipping containers are an ideal option for this very purpose. They come with excellent insulation as well as cooling/heating capability and humidity control already built in so, you don’t have to worry about converting a standard shipping container.

Most refrigerated shipping containers are equipped with systems to control the humidity within the range of 85 % to 60% and temperatures can be controlled too.

Used 40ft High Cube refrigerated containers offer the best value for money and a huge amount of growing space. They can be modified to have additional electrics including power points and lights. Plus, we can ensure the electrics we install wet-rated electrics which will allow you to jet clean the interior of the container as, and when required.

To operate a reefer, you’ll need a supply of – 32Amp, 3Phase, 400Volt 4 Pin Socket – With a D Rated Motor Breaker. (or in basic terms a beefy 3-phase power supply. You cannot run a refrigerated container on a standard 13 amp domestic supply). For delivery we also need good access for a large delivery vehicle into your site.

Whilst we aren’t experts in mushroom growing, we can convert and deliver shipping containers for this and many other purposes.

Budgetshippingcontainers.co.uk offer the UK’s largest online range of shipping containers for sale with a nationwide network of storage and conversion yards and crane equipped delivery vehicles.

If you need a shipping container feel free to browse our online range of shipping containers for sale, which also includes our ranges of flat pack sheds, container canopies and more. You can also call us on freephone 0808 1234 215 any time 9am – 7pm weekdays and our team will be happy to discuss your requirements. Alternatively, you can use our online shipping container quote form or request a telephone callback. In both cases we aim to get back to you within 1-2 working hours (may take longer for more detailed quotes).

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