Personal Mushroom Farm





This project was mainly done for participating in the US-China Green electronic Challenge. If you like our project, think it is interesting or just want to make our day, we appreciate a vote for this. Thanks and enjoy our project description :)


Nowadays lifestyle in China is characterized by a strong urbanization. People move from the countryside to the cities, live in small apartments. Although people actually want to live in the city, especially in European countries and in the US a strong counter movement of urbanization takes place. People start growing their own vegetables and fruits in small community gardens like the German Schrebergarten (British English: Allotment garden; Chinese: 社区农圃) are a common sight in western countries, and even public spaces, like parks, are used for this in a project called “Urban Farming”. People grow their own herbs at home to avoid the lower quality of mass products (e.g. in a window farm) and even make their own honey by domesticating bees on the balcony, the terrace or in garden. Some people even grow wine on their rooftops and process the juice with small scale equipment, people brew their own beer or burn their own liquor out of fruits, which is mostly legal if done for private use in small scale. Those activities can be clustered to “Urban Agriculture”. Those activities are mainly done as recreational activity or hobby, as political statement (against consumerism/capitalism and for sustainability) and out of food safety concerns and not out of monetary reasons.


When we wanted to take part in this contest because of a class, our given target was to create a product within a short time scale (7 days) from 0 to the finished product and with a very limited budget. First we were browsing our homes for unused electronics, where we found a broken mobile phone, an unused air humidifier, and old (manual) thermometer/ hygrometer and an unused laptop cooling base. From those products we chose the air humidifier and got two different ideas for using it:

Combine the air humidifier with an electronic hygrometer and create an automated air humidifier with adjustable relative air humidity and building a greenhouse for plants that need a high relative air humidity. Since we didn’t have an electronic hygrometer, we chose the second idea. To emphasize on the green aspect, we combined it with the idea of “Urban agriculture” and “Home Farming” to use it as a greenhouse for growing mushrooms.

More information and sources:

Step 1: Construction of Device

Used electronics:

  • A used ultra sound air humidifier we wanted to throw away (costs for new product: 69 Yuan RMB)

Other things used:

  • A water tank from a water dispenser (Deposit costs of around 50 Yuan RMB)
  • Small hose
  • An old analog thermometer/ hygrometer (costs for new product: 19 Yuan RMB)
  • Hot glue
  • Tape
  • File
  • Saw
  • Kitchen Knife
  • Grinding paper

For the growing:

  • A 4l plastic bottle as bowl
  • Cardboard as substrate
  • Honey to add some more nutrients to the substrate
  • 1 - 2 Oyster mushrooms for “cloning” the mycelium
  • Boiling hot water for pasteurizing the substrate
  • Sterilized water for using in the air humidifier

Step 2: Step 1.1:

Cut open the water tank by using the saw (We tried using a kitchen knife, but the tank is to stable for it). The water tank we used had a wider section right at the opening, where we sawed it, so that we can use the smaller part as a lid for later. After the sawing we smoothened the edges by using the file and grinding paper.

Step 3: Step 1.2:

Attach the hose to the opening of the water tank and seal it by using hot glue and tape. The other side of the hose is attached to the removable lid of the air humidifier and also sealed.

Step 4: Step 1.3:

Glue the thermometer/ hygrometer to the tank’s wall from the inside. It should be readable from the outside, even when there is a lot of moisture.

Step 5: Step 1.4:

Put the two parts of the water tank together. If they do not close so well, help yourself by adding some tape/ hot glue on the edges or grind material away with grinding paper. It doesn’t need to be 100% sealed, but the majority of the moisture should stay inside. We do not fix the lid in its final position before we put the self-made plastic bowl into it. (See steps at farming). If the plastic bowl is prepared and inside the tank, we attach the lid with some tape.

Since this is somehow our prototype, we found some ways to improve the construction or upgrade it:

Possible improvements:

  • Using a transparent water tank instead of a blue one to have a clearer view on the mycelium grow.
  • A more elaborated lid which is easier to open / close and is sealed.
  • A leveled shelf to grow more mycelium colonies at once.
  • A timer switch for the air humidifier (needs to be tested beforehand)
  • An electronic thermometer/ hygrometer
  • Add a nice sign on the tank

Step 6: 2 Mushroom Farming:


Mushrooms are the fruit bodies of bigger organisms called fungi (singular: fungus) which are an organism between plants and animals. The lifecycle of mushrooms starts with spores which if under the right condition (usually moist condition) develop a web like structure called mycelium. Out of this mycelium fruit bodies can grow (under certain conditions, which differ from the one before) to mushrooms, which again produce spores. The largest known fungus is at the same time the largest organism on the earth, a honey fungus in the Blue Mountains, Oregon, USA. This fungus spreads over an area of 8.9km² (2,200 acres), is 2400 years old and weighs 609 tons. Fungi can be classified into many different species, some are toxic, whereas some are edible. It is important to note, that not all mushrooms can be grown by humans, since some species need a tree or root as symbiosis partner, and thus can just grow in the nature.

Step 7: Step 2.1:

The farming process can be divided into different smaller processes. First of all, we need something the fungus can grow on, the substrate. Based on the kind of mushroom used, there are certain requirements. We will grow the mushroom with the lowest requirement, the oyster mushroom (Chinese: 平菇). For this kind of mushroom the substrate can be nearly anything organic as can be seen in the following list:


  • Liquid substrate (around 4% aquatic solutions of honey, malt extract, glucose or other kind of sugars)
  • Cereals (rye, wheat, barley, millet, corn, rice…)
  • Wood chips, saw dust (everything but pine trees or oaks)
  • Straw (Cereals, corn, legumes; Cereal straw does not contain enough nitrogen and protein and should be mixed with other kind of straw)
  • Paper/ Cardboard (e.g. old cardboard boxes, toilet rolls; printed paper should be avoided due to toxic printing colors)
  • Coffee dregs (vulnerable for molding)

For the device we use cardboard, which we cut into smaller chips, and soak it into a liquid aquatic honey solution. For processing the card board, it needs to be sterilized to kill unwanted spores, like mold spores. Therefore we use boiling hot water to soak the cardboard ships for a while. We also use boiling water to clean all the apparatuses. This step is very vital, because whenever there is any mold on the mushrooms, it is toxic and not edible any more.

Step 8: ​Step 2.2:

Now we add the fungus onto the card board. There are essentially two methods: Infusing with spores or cloning. Since we would need to buy additional spores (which is by the way necessary for nearly every other mushroom than oyster mushroom), we use the cloning method. Therefore we just buy one or two mushrooms in the market, cut them into two pieces and put them onto the substrate. Then we put the bowl with the substrate into the water tank, close the tank with the lid and fix the lid with tape. We then turn on the air humidifier to make the right environment (please refer to the manuals in the references or the one you can find on Google to find the right parameters for each type of mushroom). This phase is the growing phase, where the fungus grows the mycelium throughout the substrate. It is complete after around 2 weeks, when there is a visible white structure on the substrate.

Step 9: Step 2.3:

This step will trigger the fruiting phase of the mushroom with a cold shock. The plastic bowl is therefore wrapped with foil to keep it moist and then put in the fridge for around 2 days. For oyster mushrooms this step is not necessary, but can accelerate the fruiting, which else needs one week after the mycelium is done growing.

*note: since we are not in this phase yet, the used photo is just a placeholder*

Step 10: ​Step 2.4:

After the triggering of the fruiting, the plastic wrap is removed and the bowl is again put in the water tank. The environmental conditions differ from the growing phase, e.g. a colder place is needed, a little less humidity and more fresh air and especially light. (see table at 2.2) This phase takes around 3 weeks.

*note: since we are not in this phase yet, the used photo is just a placeholder*

Step 11: ​Step 2.5

If everything is done correctly, the mushrooms are ready for harvesting and eating. Before eating, check the mushrooms for visible signs of mold (any colored parts). If you find mold, unfortunately the whole harvest is not safe to use anymore. A simple recipe can be found in the link (growing oyster mushroom on a toilet roll) or somewhere else in the internet.

More information and sources: (German (comprehensive book about mushroom farming)) (German (Manual for growing oyster mushrooms)) (Manual for growing oyster mushrooms on a toilet paper roll) (growing oyster mushrooms in a bucket) (six step guide for farming mushrooms (in larger scale))



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    31 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, just checking if there has been some development. Any new pics and thoughts toward the final produckt?
    Even a failure is of consequence to post, since we can all learn from these faults (not saying there is; just reminding you that people are interested non the less, successful or not.)


    4 years ago on Step 1

    Not trying to be rude but how in the world did this instructable get so many views? Do people think it is the magic mushroom farm. The only farm I know of that has magic mushrooms is a cattle farm. Come on people, really?

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    "The only farm I know of that has magic mushrooms is a cattle farm." Yes you can find "Magic Mushrooms" on a cattle farm. I have personally grown "Magic Mushrooms" twice in my home and I live in a large city not anywhere near a cattle farm. Spores can be purchased at local head shops or ordered online from europe and can be easily grown if you know what you are doing. I was farming mushrooms so I would call it a mushroom farm as would most people.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Ogt92 Thanks for letting me know this information, I didn't know. I'll try not to be so pointed in the future, gotta respect all farmers.Have a Great summer.Happy farming :P


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I've read a few ibles that were basically incomplete experiments, and am always glad to receive them in my mail. There are basically two types that view this site - the practical and the cerebral - each will contain some of the other, of course. Having much fewer tools and skills that many here clearly have, I tend to fall mostly into the cerebral. I enjoy pondering problems/approaches, reading the thought processes that created the (final) choices and amendments along the way, and picking up bits of knowledge and science (and opinion), and almost always follow any links supplied - on any and every subject, from guitar modification to... err... mushroom cultivation.

    For me, there are far too few ibles per email. I'd like to see the content at least doubled, particularly as so many concern arduino (don't own and barely know what it is or does) Raspberry Pi (know but don't own), laser cutters and 3D printers (don't own, and probably never will). They all still interest me.

    The only snag with Instructibles is that I've (wasted) whole days perusing the site as the email sent me off at tangents, or in search of further knowledge.

    I didn't know that mushrooms suffered from infection by other members of their family. Something new every time.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Actually the project itself was done within one day. The 7 days are the period, where we got the task to join the challenge, thought about an project idea, get any missing material, organize a workshop and write the report for (we are students, so we also attend other courses as well.)

    If you would count the time for growing the mushrooms to, it is a 6-8 week project in total.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Cool. I never was good at math. We have some older mines around here, I've worked in a couple. I bet mushrooms would grow in them. There was some kind of white, wet looking spoor growing up near wood that would show up one day while hiking in, and be about 2 inches tall, Hiking back out after drilling and blasting a round, the same one would be twice that size in just hours in the pitch black. The next shift they would be all but gone melting away. Dunno.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    We are sorry. We will keep our project updated when we got any results.


    5 years ago on Step 11

    Um this set up seems far too inductive to creating mold tainted mushrooms, and causing food poisoning, if you even get mushrooms to take. Got to agree with wondering why this got email focus. It's more an experiment than anything else.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Of course it is somehow an experiment, since it is the first time we are doing it, and I don't think it is a bad idea. Based on the resources we got beforehand, it theoretical should work.

    We mentioned the danger of molding in our report, this is why we pasteurized all equipment with boiling water. If there will be still mold, we know to be even more careful and use disinfectant, breathing mask (we have them anyway in Beijing) and rubber gloves. For the danger of molding, it was also stated, that some substrate like used coffee powder tends to mold more than other.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I believe you are wrong. It is much harder to infect an established mycelium than you might think, and very easy to identify infected cultures. These mushrooms are grown world-wide with little problem, mostly outside.


    It's far safer than you seem to think. Contaminated mushrooms are pretty easy to spot and oysters are among the easiest to grow, identify and enjoy.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    "Since we would need to buy additional spores (which is by the way necessary for nearly every other mushroom than oyster mushroom)..."

    Not really. Nearly any mushroom can be grown from a tissue sample, and spores are the hardest way to start with no assurance of the eventual quality.

    What is the relative humidity of the air in your part of China? In some parts of the world where it is fairly humid do you think it would be enough to just use a covered container and not have to use a humidifier?


    5 years ago on Step 11

    Ugh. Why feature it in the email if it's not done yet??


    5 years ago on Step 4

    What is the source for that analog thermometer/hygrometer? Is it available online?

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago

    We don't know, whether we are allowed to post a direct link, but we bought it on the Chinese (top-level domain .cn) amazon (since we are in Beijing right now). The article name is: "DeLi 得力 9013 室内外温度计" and the price at the moment is 12 Yuan RMB (1.93 USD).

    I just had a brief watch on the american amazon, and the cheapest product I could find was an analog hygrometer for 4 USD (but without thermometer).