Remediate Soil with Mycelium Substrate

Soil remediation is a critical environmental practice aimed at restoring or improving the quality of soil that has been contaminated or degraded by various pollutants, such as heavy metals, pesticides, petroleum products and industrial chemicals. The importance of soil remediation cannot be overstated due to its numerous ecological, agricultural, and human health benefits. Mycelium substrates, specifically mycoremediation, have emerged as a promising and sustainable approach to assist in soil remediation.

Here are some key points on the importance of soil remediation and how mycelium substrates can help:

  1. Environmental Protection: Contaminated soil can have severe adverse effects on the environment. It can lead to soil erosion, groundwater pollution, and harm to local ecosystems. Soil remediation helps mitigate these negative impacts, contributing to overall environmental protection and conservation efforts.
  2. Agricultural Productivity: Healthy soil is essential for agriculture, as it provides the necessary nutrients and support for plant growth. Soil contamination can lead to reduced crop yields and food safety concerns. Remediated soil can restore fertile ground for farming, ensuring food security and quality.
  3. Human Health: Contaminated soil can pose serious health risks to humans, especially if the contaminants leach into the water supply or are taken up by plants in the food chain. Soil remediation helps safeguard public health by reducing exposure to harmful substances.
  4. Biodiversity: Many soil-dwelling organisms, including microorganisms, insects, and plants, depend on a healthy soil environment. Soil remediation efforts aim to protect and restore these ecosystems, supporting biodiversity and ecological balance.
  5. Land Reclamation: Remediated soil can be repurposed for various land uses, including residential, commercial, and recreational purposes. This repurposing of land can revitalize urban areas and promote sustainable development.

Now, let’s explore how mycelium substrates plays a role in soil remediation, which FarmBox Foods customer BLH Farm has been doing since acquiring a Gourmet Mushroom Farm:

Mycoremediation: Mycoremediation is a bioremediation technique that employs fungal mycelium, the thread-like vegetative part of fungi, to break down or absorb contaminants in the soil. Mycelium has several properties that make it effective in soil remediation:

  • Biodegradation: Mycelium can secrete enzymes that break down complex organic molecules, making them more easily metabolized by other microorganisms and reducing the toxicity of contaminants.
  • Metal Accumulation: Some species of fungi have the ability to accumulate heavy metals in their mycelium. This can help to immobilize or concentrate metals, preventing them from leaching into groundwater or affecting plant growth.
  • Soil Structure Improvement: Mycelium can also improve soil structure by binding soil particles together, increasing soil porosity, and enhancing water retention.
  • Carbon Sequestration: As fungi grow and decompose organic matter, they contribute to carbon sequestration, which can help mitigate climate change.
  • Low Environmental Impact: Mycoremediation is often considered an environmentally friendly approach because it typically requires minimal external inputs and doesn’t produce harmful byproducts.

While mycelium substrates offer promising solutions for soil remediation, it’s essential to note that their effectiveness depends on various factors, including the type and extent of contamination, the specific fungi species used, and environmental conditions. That being said, mycoremediation is often used in combination with other remediation techniques to achieve optimal results. Additionally, research and development in this field continue to expand our understanding of how fungi can be harnessed for sustainable soil remediation practices.

Exploring the wonderful world of mushrooms

Edible mushrooms have been consumed by humans for thousands of years and are a popular ingredient in various cuisines around the world, but there’s still much to be learned about their nutritional benefits and potential for reducing the risk of chronic illnesses.

Luckily, the science community is putting a greater focus on fungi, which has become a more ubiquitous element of dishes across many cultures in recent years.

Mushrooms belong to a separate kingdom of organisms from plants and animals. They have unique nutritional profiles and are a good source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins (such as B vitamins and vitamin D), and minerals, such as selenium, copper, and potassium.

Some commonly consumed edible mushroom varieties include shiitake, oysters, portobello, cremini, enoki, trumpets, button, lion’s mane and more. Edible mushrooms are used in a wide range of culinary preparations, including soups, stir-fries, sauces, stews, salads, and even as a meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Mushrooms are typically low in calories and fat, making them a healthy choice for those watching their weight or following a low-fat diet.

Edible mushrooms are known for their umami flavor, which is a savory taste sensation often described as “meaty” or “earthy.” The unique flavor profile makes them a versatile ingredient in many dishes.

Mushrooms are the only non-animal food source of vitamin D. When exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet light, they can naturally synthesize vitamin D, which can be beneficial for individuals with limited sun exposure.

Some edible mushrooms, such as shiitake and maitake mushrooms, have been studied for their potential health benefits, including immune system support and anti-inflammatory properties. Likewise, lion’s mane has been identified as a booster for cognitive function.

FarmBox Foods has designed and manufactured a high-output, all-in-one mushroom cultivation container, which comes with a ribbon mixer to create your own substrate,  a steam cabinet to pasteurize the substrate, a clean lab, incubation room, and a fruiting room. It’s a centerpiece of the Colorado company’s suite of containerized farms. It allows for commercial scale growing of oysters, lion’s mane, enoki, chestnut, trumpet, reishi and more.

It’s worth noting that while many mushrooms are edible and safe to consume, there are also poisonous varieties. It is crucial to have proper knowledge and identification skills or to rely on trained experts when foraging wild mushrooms.

Reflecting on an Uplifting Fundraiser for an AgTech Program

The smiles said it all.

We don’t often have the opportunity to see people working in our farms or enjoying fresh produce grown in a FarmBox. But that changed with our sponsorship of “Dancing with the Pueblo Starz” on July 15.

The event included active participation by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who work in the farm that was refurbished by FarmBox Foods and purchased by the nonprofit, Pueblo Diversified Industries. The Vertical Hydroponic Farm is used as the centerpiece of its Fresh Greens Colorado business, which doubles as a workforce development center for this underserved population.

The night was nothing short of magical. PDI and the seven couples who performed the featured dance routines raised $75,000, which will go toward supporting their agtech program.  Eric Gostenik (Director of National Sales at FarmBox) had the opportunity to dine with one of the developmentally disabled farmers and witness his reaction when he saw a video of himself talking about working in the farm. The farmers also participated in their own rehearsed dance routines.

Seeing this community rally around their own and around a program with infinite potential to transform lives was an opportunity of a lifetime. It brought the reasons why we do what we do to the forefront. We had the chance to meet city and county leaders, and I got to share a little bit about our company and our mission to the 600+ attendees.

To me, this is only the beginning of our work in Pueblo. There’s a significant need for food access, and when you can include a subset of people who find purpose and joy in helping others, it benefits everyone. We get to tell these stories and, ideally, show people outside of the company just who we are and what we believe.

This partnership was wholy a team effort. Eric shepherded PDI through the sales process, Jason Brown (VP of Deployment) and Jesse Gantzler (Quality Control Manager) put in a lot of work moving and refurbishing the VHF to be in ready condition, and they along with farm trainers Nick Brooks and Mollie Sullivan have provided support during operational challenges. Joseph Cammack (Executive VP) and Eric attended the Saturday night event in Pueblo and represented the company well while thinking about future partnerships with those sitting at our tables. I (Chris Michlewicz, VP of Communications) nervously gave a speech about who and what FarmBox, why we sponsored the event, and I even managed not to tear up when talking about the uplifting videos of those who work in the farms.

This is the ideal customer. They want to do good in the world, they know the impact of our container farms, and they’re serving as our ambassadors in Pueblo. This is what it’s all about.

New Business Grows Mushrooms in Upcycled Shipping Container

A Westfield, Indiana, couple is celebrating the launch of a new business centered around specialty mushrooms that are sustainably grown in a controlled-climate farm.

Mark and Julie Downs harvested their first batch of blue oyster mushrooms in mid-July, just weeks after their innovative, container-based farm was delivered. 

“As a lifelong resident of Westfield, I am excited to bring something new to our growing city,” Mark Downs said. “With the upcycled container farm, we will be able to supply fresh and chemical free gourmet mushrooms year round to restaurants and residences.” 

Having a local mushroom grower means chefs and grocers have access to the freshest product possible. They no longer have to rely on a shaky supply chain or buy mushrooms that have spent several days in transit and are nearing the end of their shelf life.

Downs Farm is already securing partnerships; on July 28-29, the Angry Donkey, a popular bistro and pub in Michigantown, will begin serving salmon mousse-stuffed halibut with blue oyster mushrooms grown in the tech-assisted farm.

The Gourmet Mushroom Farm — designed and built by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods — is run in part by software and hardware specifically designed for indoor growing operations. It allows farmers to control the humidity and temperature, misting and lighting schedules, fresh air exchange, and more. Cultivating mushrooms in an enclosed, food-safe space means there’s no need to use harmful chemicals in the start-to-finish growing process.

Gourmet mushrooms are becoming a big business as consumers increasingly recognize the health benefits of a wide array of mushroom types. They’re often used as a protein in vegan meals, and they’re an unbelievably delicious part of dishes like beef stroganoff, stir fry, risotto and marsala. 

The Downs are growing blue oysters and lion’s mane, and plan to follow market trends for additional varieties as they expand their operation, which is based on acreage property in Westfield.

As owners of Downs Farm, Julie still has her full-time job and Mark is committing all of his time to cultivating mushrooms.

Family-Run Hydroponic Farm Takes Root in Nebraska

A local family is celebrating the launch of a new business centered around serving the Platte Valley community sustainably grown greens using an indoor vertical hydroponic farm.

Thirsty Roots Farm (‘TRF’) is a controlled-climate, water-efficient, tech-assisted vertical hydroponic farm housed inside an upcycled shipping container and is able to grow food year-round.

TRF is a multi generation family business owned and operated by the Kerrs: Jarod, Maggie, Jim, and Nancy. Jarod (2011 Scottsbluff High School alumni) and Maggie Kerr provide the business expertise and entrepreneurial spirit that have brought this innovative vision to life. Jim and Nancy Kerr bring lifelong growing expertise as members of farming families and firsthand knowledge of the Scottsbluff community as residents for over 40 years. Together, they started Thirsty Roots Farm to bring fresh, local, sustainable greens to communities and are starting right here with ROOT 1. This hydroponic farm will look to supply produce to local businesses in order to increase their reach and serve as many people these delicious greens as possible.

As of this week, TRF has launched a partnership with Powerhouse on Broadway, which is located in the City of Scottsbluff and recently opened their doors in January. Unsurprisingly, it is also owned by a longtime local family, Kerri and Dave Schaff. Powerhouse on Broadway specializes in farm-to-table dishes, making Thirsty Roots Farm a premiere partner to serve customers greens grown 4 miles down the road instead of 2,000 miles across the country. The excited growers and chefs have come together to develop specialty salads that will offer patrons a fresh and exciting dining experience. The deep color, variety of textures, and explosion of flavor in the greens combined with the creative vision of the chefs showcase a summer menu to truly be excited about. Also, the flavors extend beyond the salad bowl to their cocktail menu featuring edible flowers and fresh herbs jazzing up their libations. Pro tip: salads and cocktails are best enjoyed on the primetime Powerhouse on Broadway patio right on the new 18th Street Plaza.

The Kerrs are proud to begin their entrepreneurial journey with ROOT 1 to bring nutritious produce to this community that deserves high quality food and introduce a concept whereby residents can access fresh, locally-grown food at their favorite establishments all year long. This vertical hydroponic farm, built by FarmBox Foods, is helping share the family’s passion and experience of growing nutrient-dense, delicious food while celebrating their roots.

As Thirsty Roots Farm broadens its offerings in ROOT 1, it will announce additional partnerships and make items available to customers through its online store. Follow along on their journey by liking ‘Thirsty Roots Farm’ on Facebook, following them on Instagram @ThirstyRootsFarm, or by visiting their website www.ThirstyRootsFarm.com

About Thirsty Roots Farm

Thirsty Roots Farm is sustainability, community, and nutrition conveniently combined into a climate-controlled steel container. We are relentlessly striving to solve the problems of food availability and quality with year-round bountiful harvests as close as your nextdoor neighbor. Through innovation and a dedication to the small-scale farm systems sewn into the roots of our history; Thirsty Roots is empowering small businesses and communities to take the quality and availability of nutritious meals into their own hands.

FarmBox Foods Proud Sponsor of Dancing with the Pueblo Starz

FarmBox Foods was the proud “executive producer” of Dancing with the Pueblo Starz, which raised more than $75,000 for agtech programming.

The fundraising event at the Pueblo Convention Center benefitted Pueblo Diversified industries and Fresh Greens Colorado, an indoor farming operation in Pueblo that provides job opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

PDI and Fresh Greens Colorado are dedicated to supporting and empowering the community while becoming a catalyst for change. The donated funds will help transform the lives of these extraordinary individuals by enhancing their independence through vocational training and life skills development in a Vertical Hydroponic Farm built by FarmBox Foods. From job training to job placements, the money raised will support this hub where the whole community can connect, share experiences, and find a sense of belonging.

About PDI

Those with severe diverse abilities may need an additional hand-up in reaching their goals. PDI has a team that nurtures, supports, and guides the process, all driven by the individual. This team assists them in moving forward in life to their place of greatest comfort in work, home and recreation. We help our people leave limitations at the door through life-enhancing opportunities both in-house and within the community.

At PDI, our programs are specifically designed to provide a wide variety of choices and options, to engage both the body and mind. Because we are person-centered, we create the space for choice, ranging to serve younger individuals to those with more life experience; those who are independent to those who require more personalized care.

Each individual can choose from a wide array of activities and programming, include games and community outings, classes ranging from Spanish to cooking to computers, social skills activities, music and dancing lessons.

What Types of Plants Grow in a Vertical Hydroponic Farm?

We dedicated more than two years to research and development, figuring out what will and will not grow in our containerized Vertical Hydroponic Farm.

The following list is not meant to be all-encompassing, but rather provide a snapshot of the types of crops that we and our customers have focused on, like yellow onions, collard greens, kale, a range of different micro greens, bok choy, red leaf beet and watercress. Of course, we’re always experimenting and adding to the list.

Vertical hydroponic farm

Peppers

    • Jalapeno- Jefe, Jalafuego
    • Habanero- Helios, Paper Lantern
    • Serrano- Altiplano
    • Sweet Pepper- Lunch Box
    • Cayenne- Red Flame
    • Ghost peppers

Tomatoes

    • Slicer- Mountain Fresh
    • Grape- Verona
    • Cherry- Sakura

Lettuces

    • Romaine
    • Muir
    • Rex
    • Magenta
    • Rouxai
    • Red Butterhead
    • Green Butterhead
    • Green Star
    • Ezflor
    • Grazion
    • Red Oak
    • Tropicana
    • Frisee

Herbs

    • Cilantro
    • Parsley
    • Chives
    • Oregano
    • Prospera Basil
    • Genovese Basil
    • Purple Basil
    • Spicy Bush Basil
    • Dill
    • Lavender
    • Purslane
    • Mint

Greens

    • Rainbow Chard
    • Collard Greens
    • Red Vein Sorrel
    • Arugula
    • Dandelion
    • Golden Frills
    • Kale
    • Tatsoi
    • Red Kingdom
    • Spinach- Lizard, Space

Flowers

    • Viola
    • Marigold
    • Nasturtium

Cucumbers

    • Pickler- Excelsior

Beans

    • Bush Beans

Starters

    • Pumpkin- Jack O’Lantern
    • Sunflower- Giant, Skyscraper, Mixed Colors
    • Marigold- Crackerjack, French Double Dwarf

Edible Beats Announces Hydroponic BeatBox Farms At Vital Root

Edible Beats, the Denver-based restaurant group that includes Linger, Root Down, Vital Root, Ophelia’s and El Five, has announced the installation of a Hydroponic FarmBox by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods in the backyard of their plant-based Denver staple, Vital Root.

Edible Beats, the 100% Employee-Owned Denver-based restaurant group founded by Chef Justin Cucci, has announced the installation of a Hydroponic FarmBox by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods in the backyard of their plant-based Denver staple, Vital Root.

Coined BeatBox Farms, the hydroponic farm fits perfectly into the Edible Beats family, where a love of music and sustainability are at the forefront of every initiative. This specific initiative is a step towards providing all of their restaurants, including Root Down, Vital Root, Linger, El Five and Ophelia’s with their own homegrown fresh produce, adding to their over 50% locally sourced ingredients within Colorado. Embedded in the fabric of Edible Beats restaurants are their commitment to sustainability and waste reduction. From 100% wind-powered buildings, to compostable storage bags and gloves, BeatBox Farms is another step towards reducing packaging waste and lowering their carbon footprint, as it eliminates the shipping of the produce.

Within the 320-square-foot Vertical Hydroponic Farm (VHF), plants will go from seed to harvest and can yield the equivalent of up to 2.5 acres of farmland annually, with the capability to grow 7,800 plants at once. Expecting to harvest 120 lbs of veggies and greens weekly, they will be growing a variety of produce: Red Russian Kale, Runaway Arugula, Tat Soi, Hon Soi, Wasabina Mustard Greens, Scarlet Frills Purple Mustard Greens, Watercress, Basil, Cilantro and Dill. And by filtering and recycling water, BeatBox Farms uses 99% less water than traditional farms, and is committed to being pesticide-free, insecticide-free and fertilizer-free. All factors that allow Edible Beats to avoid groundwater contamination.

At the helm, Edible Beats FarmBox Cultivator and AgriCULTURist, Cori Hunt has had a rich history in the culinary and farming world. After working in Central Illinois to start the first Farm/Restaurant collaboration, Epiphany Farms, Cori says, “I have witnessed the better path first hand. Now I strive to help spread the word of this better path and align myself with likeminded people and groups. That led me to Edible Beats, who have been on the frontlines of this concept in Denver since the conception of Root Down.”

With this kind of local farming, the self contained vertical hydroponic grow system produces 10x more volume year round then the equivalent size of a traditional farm, with a daily consumption of roughly $20 in energy, and only 4 gallons of water per day. Cori shares, “Together we are attempting yet again to break as many molds as possible, pick up the pieces and build a better future.” As a leader in farm-to-table dining, Chef/Founder Justin Cucci has pioneered a culture of sustainability over the years with practices that go well beyond the kitchen. “I really wanted to have a sustainable culture for the employees,” explained Cucci.

This year, Edible beats joined a small handful of restaurants in the country, implementing a pioneering, self-funded 100% Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Rarely seen in the restaurant industry, his 350+ Edible Beats employees will all share in the long-term financial worth of the company, which Cucci calls “the quintessential win-win.”

Exploring the Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries in various cultures around the world, and ongoing research shows we’re only scratching the surface when it comes to fully understanding the benefits of fungi.

Immune support is one of the advantages of regularly consuming certain mushrooms. Reishi, turkey tail and maitake have been shown to enhance immune function.

Some mushrooms, including lion’s mane, chaga, and cordyceps, may possess anti-inflammatory properties, and many types of mushrooms (shiitake, oysters and porcinis) are rich in antioxidants, which help combat stress and protect cells from damage. Likewise, adaptogens are composed of substances that help the body adapt to stress and promote overall well-being.

But perhaps of the driving forces behind the recent surge of interest in mushrooms is cognitive health. Lion’s mane, in particular, has been studied for its potential to support brain health, and is believed to promote nerve growth. It may also have neuroprotective effects, potentially benefiting memory and focus.

Cordyceps have long been used in traditional Eastern medicine to enhance energy levels, endurance, and athletic performance. They are also thought to improve oxygen utilization and support the respiratory system. According to Healthline.com, they also have the potential to slow the growth of tumors.

Some types of fungi, such as shiitake, contain dietary fiber and compounds that may promote digestive health. Shiitake mushrooms also contain a compound called lentinan, which has been studied for its potential anti-tumor properties, although nothing conclusive has been declared by health experts.

Further scientific research is needed to validate the effectiveness of ingesting mushrooms. But professional and amateur chefs alike continue to come up with creative ways to incorporate mushrooms into the diets of consumers by crafting delicious sides and fanciful vegan dishes. And one of the biggest plusses is that mushrooms aren’t seasonal; most commercially available fungi grows all year long in warehouses or containerized, controlled-climate environments.

FarmBox Foods Joins the International Phytobiomes Alliance

FarmBox Foods has joined the International Alliance for Phytobiomes Research as a sponsoring partner and is set to participate in groundbreaking studies that will examine sustainable food production.

The Phytobiomes Alliance facilitates and coordinates national and international research projects on phytobiomes to accelerate the sustainable production of food, feed, and fiber for all. The term “Phytobiome” refers to a plant growing in a specific environment (a biome), and all the geophysical and biological components that interact with this plant.

Colorado-based FarmBox Foods takes upcycled shipping containers and transforms them into controlled-climate container farms in which mushrooms, leafy greens, culinary herbs, micro greens, peppers, fodder, and other plants can be sustainably grown. This ground-breaking production solution provides an efficient way for local communities to grow healthy food, with low energy and water usage.

“We are thrilled to have FarmBox Foods join the Alliance,” said Kellye Eversole, the Alliance Executive Director.“Their innovative container farms are a perfect example of a phytobiome. FarmBox Foods’ expertise will be an invaluable addition to our scientific Coordinating Committee, helping us to advance our understanding of the various components impacting plant production in a closed environment as well as in the field. FarmBox Foods is also pioneering the production of livestock fodder in containers and we look forward to working with them to find plant/microbe-based solutions to challenges facing the livestock industry, such as the need to reduce methane production, increase overall livestock health, and improve feed efficiency.”

Joseph Cammack, FarmBox Foods Executive Vice President, will be joining the Alliance Coordinating Committee. This Committee identifies research, resource and technology gaps, establishes priorities, and develops strategic plans to achieve Alliance goals. Cammack will also be joining the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Working Group that is tasked with identifying major CEA challenges that could be addressed by phytobiomes research.

“The work that the Phytobiomes Alliance is doing is critically important as our world population surges and sustainable food production becomes more of a priority,” said Cammack. “We are excited to be involved in research that helps overcome challenges in our space and strengthens our industry as a whole.”

Over the next decades, understanding entire systems of phytobiomes will be critical to ensuring sustainable global food security in the context of population growth, climate change, the necessity to preserve biodiversity and natural resources, while maintaining or enhancing grower profitability. The Phytobiomes Alliance is working on addressing these challenges by establishing a foundation of knowledge on how phytobiome components interact and affect each other.