A sweet spin on mushrooms grow bags with Sustinent and Sunshine Sugar

A sweet spin on mushrooms grow bags with Sustinent and Sunshine Sugar | The Cultivator Spring 2021

A SWEET SPIN ON MUSHROOM GROW BAGS with Sustinent and Sunshine Sugar

In a partnership between Sunshine Sugar and biotechnology company Sustinent, ready-to-fruit mushroom grow bags using sugarcane biomass (cane trash or bagasse) are being developed as a commercial product.

Gourmet mushrooms are in high demand across domestic and world markets as culinary connoisseurs seek them out for their flavour, versatility and various health benefits.

As a popular choice amongst vegetarians and vegans, mushrooms are gluten-free, high-protein, low-calorie, low-carbohydrate and in addition to the many vitamins and minerals mushrooms contain, they have also been found to have high levels of antioxidants.

Whilst mushrooms can be found growing just about anywhere all year round, growing gourmet or exotic mushrooms on a commercial scale is challenging and requires careful preparation and optimised growing conditions.

To date, sugarcane biomass has been utilised to produce many high-value products, but its potential as a fungal growth medium is now being realised at a trial site co-located at Sunshine Sugar’s Harwood Mill in northern New South Wales.

Sugarcane has one of the highest bioconversion efficiency rates of capturing sunlight through photosynthesis and can fix around 55 tonnes of dry matter per hectare of land annually.

This residual material left after harvesting is rich in carbon and energy, making the sugarcane biomass an excellent low-cost growth medium for mushrooms.

Much of this residual biomass in New South Wales is currently used for energy generation. It is also a rich source of material for the production of fuels, chemicals, and other value-added products, including animal feed, paper and bio-degradable packaging.

Sustinent have demonstrated that gourmet mushrooms can be cultivated on artificial logs comprised of sugarcane fibre that has been inoculated with fungal spawn under aseptic conditions.

The team from Sustinent have successfully cultivated edible gourmet mushrooms such as Oyster and Shiitake, as well as medicinal mushrooms like Resihi and Turkey Tail.

Multiple flushes of mushrooms can be harvested before the substrate is recycled as livestock feed or a rich compost, to create a sustainable, circular economy.

Ready-to-fruit gourmet Oyster Mushroom grow bags are expected to start flying off the production line towards the end of 2021 – just in time for the Christmas table.