Growing Gourmet Mushrooms Indoors: The Arduino Grow Chamber – Sustainable Farming and Food Systems Capstone – Aiden
My project was an exploration into the world of fungus cultivation, specifically indoor production. I worked with a partner and mentor, Jordan E_____, in designing a system that could monitor itself, perform crucial actions automatically, and ultimately provide the fungus growing inside of it with the most ideal conditions for it to thrive. This was achieved with the help of a little microcontroller called Arduino. For those that are unfamiliar with microcontrollers, they can be thought of as a miniature computer that can be programmed to perform a wide variety of tasks. In this case, it interprets input from a temperature and humidity sensor and reacts accordingly, either turning on the heat mat underneath the chamber or turning on the humidifier. Fresh air exchange is achieved through the use of an air pump.
To grow fungi, simply put, you need a warm environment with high humidity that gets plenty of fresh air. There are two different schools of thought about how to provide these conditions. The first is the more wild method; growing fungus outdoors and not caring at all about contaminants, considering them natural competitive factors that cultivated fungi will need to overcome. The other way of thinking about it sits at the other side of the spectrum; indoors and with a heavy emphasis on keeping the environment contaminant free. This is what we were shooting for in this project, but there were some issues that we had keeping everything completely sterile. It turns out that air is really very dirty. While sterilizing substrate, there was really no way short of using a lab or a clean room to inoculate. Sterilization was achieved by boiling the straw substrate, and we inoculated it inside of a tarp that had been cleaned by rubbing alcohol. Just the contact with the air though was enough to contaminate everything with Aspergillus spores. It even formed on the bottom of Jordan’s block of sawdust spawn when condensation pooled around the bottom and it was left to its own devices for a few days.
Overall I was unable to successfully fruit any oyster mushrooms, but I learned much about the process of cultivation, and discovered an incredible piece of technology that I am sure I will use in the future cultivating fungi or perhaps plants in a greenhouse. The possibilities are many and varied. I firmly believe that knowledge of microcontrollers will help me to build a farm business, because they combine a low price tag with a high degree of function. Allowing you to automate processes happening on your farm, saving you time on a day-to-day basis and making the system more resilient, because an Arduino that is set up to take sensor readings can then be made to react to unfavorable changes in the environment and remediate the problem.