Biodegradable bags for mushroom farming
Dr Nasim Amiralian from University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) is collaborating with Queensland producer Scenic Rim Mushrooms to reduce the company’s reliance on plastic ‘grow bags’.
The 12-month project is developing a biodegradable alternative for the mushroom grow bags that not only provides optimum growing conditions but also breaks down in soil.
Amiralian said existing biodegradable plastics made from corn starch, potato starch or even mycelium — the vegetative part of mushrooms — are often brittle and lack long-term integrity.
“But using fibres from agricultural waste like sugarcane is an affordable, high-quality and sustainable way to ensure plastic grow bags can withstand high temperatures and humidity,” she said.
Scenic Rim Mushrooms founder Matthew Davis said the company’s farming methods were all sustainable, except for the use of plastics.
“The fungiculture industry has traditionally had to use plastics for mass commercial production, but this project gives us hope,” Davis said.
“It’s a problem that needs to be fixed for us to become completely cyclic mushroom growers, and proceed to large-volume commercial cultivation.”
Amiralian said the grow bag project could lay the groundwork for the technology to be applied across agriculture, manufacturing, pulping and packaging.
“Ultimately we’d like to see the product we develop translated to the global fungiculture and packaging markets,” she said.
The project has been funded with the help of a $30,000 Industry Kickstarter grant from the UQ Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, supported by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment under the Strategic University Reform (SURF).
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