Seeders: Ryan Bubriski, Zac Tobias and Will Fortini, Portland Mushroom Company
The Farm: an urban farm in an old industrial yard in St John, Portland – housed in insulated shipping containers
What They Seed: high-quality oyster mushrooms for farmers market, restaurants and food trucks using sustainable farming methods
Where You Can Find Them:
Farmers Markets: Portland Farmers Market @ PSU (Saturdays)
Feeders They Supply:
Restaurants: Ox, Clyde Common, Raven & Rose, Ava Gene’s, Roman Candle, Beast, Papa Haydn, Pono Farm & Fine Meats, a Cena, Caffe Mingo, Aqua Riva, The Brooklyn House Restaurant
In an old industrial yard called “Green Anchors” in St John, Portland, there are a few unsuspecting shipping containers next to a vintage boat repair shop, a solar company and a firewood business. One would never know that the containers are filled with hundreds of plastic buckets, blooming with Portland Mushroom Company’s beautiful oyster mushrooms.
Ryan Bubriski, Zac Tobias and Will Fortini met while studying biology at Lewis & Clark college. A mycology professor, a fungal ecology thesis and some interesting conversations inspired them to start a small-scale oyster mushroom farm in their Southeast Portland basement apartment in 2012.
Their concept was to cultivate the mushrooms in repurposed plastic buckets, which is much less wasteful and more sustainable than the traditional plastic bag method. They entered a venture competition through Lewis & Clark: the 8 month process included business workshops and meeting with mentors. The prize was seed money to start their operation, which they won in October 2013.
Ryan, Zac and Will then moved their production to it’s current location in St John. They outfitted a couple of insulated shipping containers and have managed to increase their production from 20 buckets per week to over 100 buckets per week. The buckets are recycled food-grade containers filled with straw that is locally sourced from Sherwood. The typical plastic bag method that is used to cultivate mushrooms creates about 1 pound of plastic waste per 20 lbs of product. At production levels of 150-200 pounds per week, Portland Mushroom Company is avoiding creating significant amounts of waste, plus the used straw can be composted.
Inside their shipping containers Portland Mushroom Company can regulate the air flow, moisture levels and temperature to keep the oyster mushrooms happy. It’s been a challenging learning curve to scale production up and an adviser from NW Mycological Consultants was skeptical about the shipping container method, but they’ve figured out the systems to make it successful.
Why oyster mushrooms? Oyster mushrooms are a great product to grow and distribute locally: they’re fragile and need to be sold fresh. They don’t hold up very well on display at retail stores or through wholesale distributors. Portland Mushroom Company sells direct to restaurants and at the PSU Farmers Market on Saturdays. Their customers and consumers are very happy with the product, usually harvested that day or just the day before. Oyster mushrooms are also much easier to cultivate than some other mushrooms that require near hospital-grade sanitation. However they do have ambitions to expand and grow other culinary mushrooms such as maitake, lion’s mane, and enoki in the future.