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Mushrooms are a unique and often mysterious organism. They’re not quite plants and not quite animals. As a fungus, mushrooms represent a distinct evolutionary lineage. Fungi grow as a single-cell yeast form (used in beer, wine, and bread making) and multi-cellular, thread-like mycelia that often produce fruiting bodies (mushrooms) and sclerotia (e.g. truffles), and are responsible for the decomposition of the vast majority of dead plant matter. Understanding life cycle of mushroom fungi is a valuable skill if you wish to harness this knowledge for mushroom cultivation.

There are a variety of edible mushrooms that can be readily cultivated. Button/portobello, oyster, shiitake, and lion’s mane are a few common and hardy species for which reliable cultivation methods have been developed. However, there are a few specific skills and techniques that are necessary if you wish to go through the process of foraging wild mushrooms to cultivating them. This article and accompanying video will demystify this process by demonstrating how mushroom cultivation can be performed with a minimal skill set and budget.

Among Eukaryotic organisms, mushrooms belong to the Kingdom Fungi, which is distinct from the two other well-known Kingdoms, Plantae (plants) and Animalia (animals). Interestingly, fungi are more closely related to animals than plants. Fungi are most commonly found as yeasts, molds, and mushrooms. Although they share many similarities, their life cycles can differ significantly. Fungi that produce mushrooms typically have three distinct phases of their growth cycle: 1) colonization as filamentous mycelia, 2) primordia or pre-mushroom formation, and 3) fruiting body or mushroom formation. Each growth stage often requires specific environmental conditions for initiation and to grow optimally. The most influential conditions are air temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration. These growth cycle changes are often a natural response to the change in seasonal conditions that promote producing mushrooms. By harnessing this knowledge, we can optimize conditions to promote specific growth stages. To do this, we will rely on sensors to measure our environmental conditions and relays to control devices to modulate these conditions, then create feedback loops with these inputs and outputs to regulate conditions to our desired state. The hardware is inexpensive off-the-shelf components and the software is a custom environmental control system I developed, Mycodo, and is free and open source. Below is an overview of some of the features of the system we will set up, but do check out GitHub for a full list of features.

Mycodo Features in this Project
Measure air conditions: temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide concentration.
Control relays to operate a humidifier, air pump for sampling carbon dioxide, and lighting for time-lapse photography.
Generate a pulse-width modulated (PWM) output signal to control fan speed for fresh air exchange.
Automatically adjust air to target humidity and carbon dioxide concentration ranges by modulating the fan and humidifier.
Use timers to schedule light & camera captures for time-lapse photography.
Send e-mail alert notifications if measurements fall outside acceptable ranges (e.g. temperature, humidity, or carbon dioxide too high or low).
Use the Raspberry Pi Camera to monitor mushrooms with live images and conduct time-lapse photography of growth.
Configure dashboards with gauges, graphs, camera, and other widgets to view all relevant data on a single page.
Forward port 443 through your router to the Raspberry Pi to be able to view and control the system with the Mycodo web interface from anywhere with internet access (with a user login system for security).”

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