Why mushrooms are the world's most sustainable crop

Posted by Ally Manolis on

Mushrooms are often considered the most sustainable vegetable. They have been important influences on health and wellness, environments and economies for centuries. It’s no wonder that people from all different cultures and backgrounds across the globe have been growing and enjoying mushrooms throughout history . 

From the beginning of the cultivation process to harvest, mushrooms are known to be one of the lowest-impact foods on the planet - but why? We’re going to unpack why these fungi are one of the most important crops grown in the United States.


Mushroom Farmers Are the Ultimate Recyclers

Often called the “ultimate recyclers”, mushroom farmers have the unique ability to take other agricultural byproducts and waste and turn it into their own compost to grow fungi from. 

By recycling other farmers' crops, waste or by-products, mushroom farmers have a widely smaller environmental footprint than farmers who grow other fruits, vegetables or crops. 

Mushroom farmers often use fallen tree trunks to cultivate their fungi. They also are known to use a combination of hay and bedding materials from horse farms as their desired mushroom soil. They can also use chicken litter from poultry farms, saw dust, brewers grain, corn cobs, almond husks, and a number of other byproducts from different businesses. 


agaricus button mushrooms


They Are Grown Year Round

Mushrooms can be grown year round, which can prove to be extremely economically stable. Compare this to a number of different fruits and vegetables that can only grow in very specific climates or at certain points of the year.

Incredibly, mushrooms take just weeks to grow. Many mushrooms have a rapid growth cycle and can be harvested up to 8 times a year! This kind of rapid growth cycle ensures that farmers have crops to sell all year long.


They Don’t Require a Lot of Land

Mushroom farming also has an incredibly small physical land footprint. The amount of space a farmer needs to grow mushrooms is miniscule compared to the land that a corn or apple farmer needs. 

On average in 2017-18 in the United States, mushroom farmers grew 891 million pounds of mushrooms with about 1 square mile of total land. On a smaller scale, a single small scale grower can produce over 6.5 pounds of mushrooms in just one square foot of space. 


Mushroom Farming Is Efficient 

The amount of water needed to grow mushrooms is far less than those of other crops. On average, most crops need about 50 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of produce. Incredibly, farmers only need 2 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of the common white button mushroom.

Growing mushrooms also requires very little energy in comparison to other crops. Button mushrooms only take 1.0 kwh (kilowatt hour), or the same amount of energy as running a coffee machine for an hour, to produce a pound of white button mushrooms. 

Another staggering fact that proves why mushrooms are so efficient can be found when looking at the levels of CO2, a harmful greenhouse gas, that growing mushrooms omit compared to other crops. From their cultivation to being at your local grocery store, a pound of mushrooms generates just 0.7lbs of CO2. That is an extremely small carbon footprint. Compare that to 1 gallon of car fuel in the USA, which can omit over 20 lbs of CO2. 


Mushroom farming sustainability


They Generate Very Little Waste

Substrates produced by mushrooms after harvest can be used in a number of exciting ways. This incredible byproduct can be reused and recycled by other mushroom farmers, added to home gardening and potting soil, for growing vegetable crops, and even used in mine reclamation projects


Mushroom Farmers Are Progressive

Environmentally speaking, mushroom farms are at the forefront of sustainable farming in the United States. Their ability to use and respect land, soil, air and water is unmatched in farming industries throughout the country, and even throughout the world. 

Fungi farmers are also finding ways to manage their operations during off peak hours, meaning they are consuming energy in the early morning hours or very late at night, which decreases the pressure on the energy grid.


Mushroom Farms Drive Economies Up 

Mushroom farms are economically stimulating to communities. One Pennsylvania county is home to over 47 Agaricus mushroom growers, coining them as the “Mushroom Capital of the World”.

In 2020, the world's mushroom market was estimated at USD 16.65 billion, with North America making up 25.8% of the market share. 


Where to Get Mushroom Supplements in the USA?

Alchemi mushrooms is a functional mushroom and wellness company on the mission to transform health with the power of mushrooms. Founded on organic farms in California, Alchemi strives to make products that boost overall health and function while supplying our customers with full transparency products into their daily rituals.

Our mushroom blends are formalized to optimize your every day. With a range of functional mushrooms and vitamins, our products are perfect additions to your routine. Try one of our products today!

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