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Production of mushroom compost on a small scale


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Mushroom compost is the most important ingredient in a successful mushroom farm and has the greatest impact on the farm’s ability to achieve its intended harvest.


And there is one “problem” with compost – its production tends to be on a large scale. Mixing lines, conveyor systems, overhead loaders, and a number of other components of modern compost production are industrially produced taking into account the optimal parameters of the compost plant, and therefore some minimum scale.

The technology used today for the production of compost on an industrial scale sets an economically “justified” minimum size of compost production – about 400 tons of incubated compost per week. And investments in such a compost plant, depending on the parameters, will range from 5 to 15 million euros.

Of course, it is possible to design compost production facilities that are modern in terms of equipment for smaller volumes, but investments per 1 ton of output will greatly increase, making the project economically unjustified in many cases.

But is there a way out for farms that are unable to purchase compost, for example because they are located logistically far from potential compost suppliers? And at the same time, the farm does not have sufficient scale to build a compost production facility with a capacity of hundreds of tons per week.

This situation arises quite often in regions where the demand for mushrooms is very small, or the market is divided between vertically integrated farms that have their own compost production, but do not want to sell them to other farms.

When such a situation arises, special solutions for building a small compost yard may come in handy. The cost of compost produced in such plants will be higher than the cost of large-scale production, however, given the above-mentioned logistical difficulties in delivering compost, they can have significant advantages.

One of the main challenges when designing a small compost production facility is the pasteurization tunnel and incubation tunnel. According to the principle of operation, they are no different from the tunnels of large compost production plants – they need to loaded and unloaded with the compost, it is necessary to control the climate, which requires both an air conditioning unit and a control computer.

To meet these needs, the market offers ready-made solutions in the form of ready-to-use tunnels, plug-and-play so to speak.

The tunnel is housed in a standard shipping container, allowing it to be transported anywhere, and comes pre-installed with climate control controlled by a Fancom computer.


Phase II/III compost container. Photo by ESUDIA

Pressurization is carried out through a floor with holes. There are couple of options that use tubes or plenum but on surface you anyway have a floor with holes. Loading is done on one side through a gate and the tunnel is equipped with a compost mat and a small winch for loading and unloading compost.

Plenum under the floor. Photo by ESUDIA


Plenum under the floor. Photo by ESUDIA

The cost of such a tunnel starts from 50,000 euros and, depending on options, can reach 60-65 thousand euros. Up to 16 tons of Phase 2 compost can be prepared in one tunnel pasteurization cycle. (Here and below numbers for standard 40ft container specified. Also 45ft container can be used and 20ft container with accordingly higher and lower output).

The same tunnel can be equipped with a cooling unit, which allows incubation of compost and obtaining incubated Phase 3 compost.


Control computer


Airhandling unit

For the production of Phase 1 compost, appropriate concrete bunkers can be built, but if the client wants to start production as quickly as possible, bunkers can also be purchased based on shipping containers with pre-installed ventilation and a control computer.

For wheeled equipment in a compost plant using such containers, you can get by with a small front loader, or a machine like a Bobcat. Nets are used inside container and it can be filled from a top. Emptying of container is made using small winch.

Mixing straw with chicken manure or another source of nitrogen, gypsum can be done on a concrete site with a loader, wetted from above with a hose, or in a pool, or by assembling a small mixing line yourself.


Small winch for mobile container

For Phase 2 compost (pasteurized compost), having 1 container-based pasteurization tunnel with maximal size will give you the ability to feed 1 growing room up to 200 m2 per week (you should have 8 growing rooms to run smoothly on a 56-day cycle and get up to 5 500 kg mushrooms a week).


4 compost containers. Photo by ESUDIA

To produce Phase 3 compost on a weekly basis you will need at least 4 of these tunnels and some design additions (clean area, boiler) and you will be able to produce about 12-14 tons of incubated compost per week moving 1 tunnel Phase II into 1 tunnel for incubation. With a standard growing cycle, such compost production will correspond to a farm of 6 growing rooms of 150 m2 each (the same 5 500 kg a week better quality) or 5 growing rooms when working on 2 breaks of fruiting.

Also it’s possible to use 5 tunnels and get up to 22tons Phase III in a week, or 9 tunnels with capacity 40 tons per week (2tunnelsx20tons/week).

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