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Recent News from MFG Tray

Sustainable Mushroom Cultivation

Posted on March 31, 2023

Sustainable Mushroom Cultivation by MFG TrayOn the timeline of agriculture, the cultivation of mushrooms is relatively new. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 70s that small-scale cultivators started sprouting up around the United States. Today, there are over 300 mushroom farms located across the country, growing anywhere from tens of pounds to thousands of pounds of mushrooms.

Whether you’re interested in growing these delectable fungi at home or you’re a current commercial cultivator, it’s helpful to know what’s shaking in the industry. In this post, MFG Tray, a premier supplier of vertical farming and insect-rearing trays, looks at the booming mushroom market, its environmental impact, and how to cultivate mushrooms sustainably.

The Burgeoning Mushroom Industry

They’re delicious, nutritious, and potentially medicinal —it’s no wonder why consumption is skyrocketing. In the 1970s, the United States per capita annual consumption of mushrooms was about .7 pounds. Today, it’s roughly 3.0 pounds.

Between the large financial investment and long learning curves, the economic viability of mushroom farming enterprises was once dicey. However, indoor small-scale specialty mushroom cultivators are changing the upside potential.

For instance, field research from Cornell University shows that one half-acre of woodland can support a 1,000-log shiitake operation. That business would cost $4,740 to establish and yield roughly 1,040 pounds of mushrooms, equating to $12,480 gross. These figures translate to $24,960 per acre.

Conversely, indoor production estimates are between $1 to $3 per square foot in net income, representing a potential $43,560 to $130,680 income per acre for indoor growing operations.

It doesn’t stop with food, either. New opportunities are appearing almost overnight, from health supplements and textiles to environmental remediation (mycoremediation) and medicine. Case in point: The global mushroom market size was valued at USD 50.3 billion in 2021, and Grand View Research estimates a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.7% from 2022 to 2030.

The Environmental Effects of Cultivation

Unfortunately, fostering so many fungi has a major pitfall. According to the EU Commission, cultivating mushrooms produces a lot of waste. More specifically, about three kilograms of soil-like material containing straw, manure, and peat is left behind for every kilogram of mushrooms produced.

What’s more, global mushroom production produces more than 1.1 billion tons of spent mushroom substrate (SMS) annually. While it would make excellent fertilizer for other crops, the mushroom substrate is too soaked with water and thus too heavy to transport to make it a viable option. But they may be an unassuming hero in this story.

Bugs, Food, and Waste

Bugs are the last things most people like to think about when they’re eating. But, as it turns out, they may be the key to ensuring a sustainable food supply. From creating biofuel to converting organic agricultural waste into usable products, insects may eventually unlock the potential for a “wasteless” food production process.

As noted above, the mushroom cultivating industry produces massive amounts of SMS. It’s for that reason that people are seeking solutions to convert this agricultural waste into a valuable product.

To start this process, researchers have started selectively breeding insects to break down agricultural waste products. From here, the frass, which is the waste product that insects produce and is rich in nutrients, can be converted into usable fertilizer products, animal feed, biofuel, and even a new mushroom substrate. As organic fertilizer, frass:

  1. Promotes growth
  2. Enhances abiotic tolerance (stress from cold, heat, drought, salt, etc.)
  3. Increases resistance to pathogens and pests

But, like mushroom cultivation, insect rearing is a delicate process. It demands a skilled team and high-quality equipment to ensure healthy reproduction. To help you ensure you have the right tools for the job, MFG Tray developed specialized glass-reinforced composite insect-rearing trays that are:

  • Resistant to hot spots as larvae bundle together
  • Dimensionally consistent and strong (ideal for machine integration)
  • Corrosion-resistant to highly acidic diets and the waste produced
  • Stackable and interlocking
  • Food safe (FDA Regulation Title 21 CFR 177.2420)
  • Easily steam cleaned and sterilized

From small farms to commercial facilities, entomologists everywhere have used MFG Tray’s durable and dependable trays. With their smooth, non-porous surface, they’re also easy to steam clean and powerwash. Additionally, our composite material doesn’t bend or warp with heavy loads, making it more durable than plastic or wood insect-rearing trays.

Closed Loop Mushroom Production

With such a new industry, there is still so much left to discover about mushroom cultivation. But one thing is entirely clear: we need to find ways to minimize agricultural waste, including SMS. One of the best ways to do it may be to rear insects that can convert organic matter into nutrient-dense fertilizer.

Should cultivators vertically integrate their operation so that they’re growing mushrooms and the organisms that decompose the waste, the savings in waste treatment could be substantial. If you’re interested in learning more about our insect-rearing options, visit our product page or reach out to us today.


Leading manufacturer of high-strength, glass-reinforced composite containers, trays, boxes, flats and totes for material handling in the metal working, plastics and electronics assembly industries, as well as in food service, confectionery and pharmaceutical processing.

MFG Tray continually develops customized solutions for specific material-handling challenges and applications. Customers are encouraged to contact MFG Tray to discuss any unique handling and design requirements.