Mushroom potential could spell magic for Bundaberg ag industry

12 May 2022

A commitment as part of the Federal Government's Securing Raw Materials Program will help to fund CQUniversity research that aims to investigate regional production of high-value mushroom varieties using a sugarcane by product known as bagasse as the substrate.

The Federal Government grant valued at $1.9 million' announced by The Hon Senator Bridget McKenzie' Minister for Regionalisation' will help to establish a new farm and factory run by the Kenon Corporation in Bundaberg' with about $600 000 to be directed towards research activity.

As part of the research project' CQUniversity agricultural researchers will develop and test the effectiveness and efficiency of bagasse substrate recipes' with a particular focus on rare mushroom varieties including pink' golden and king oyster mushrooms.

The new Bundaberg operation will add to the Kenon Corporation's existing operations in Southeast Queensland where they are a key supplier of mushroom varieties such as oyster' enoki and shitake mushrooms to domestic and international markets.

Lead researcher from CQUniversity' Dr Jady Li' said the team were currently cultivating mushroom spores and developing different substrate recipes that will be used to incubate and grow mushrooms in specially build mushroom grow houses.

"As part of this project we have acquired locally produced sugarcane bagasse to develop different substrate recipes for growing rare mushroom varieties including pink' yellow and king oyster mushrooms.

"Our research will assess what recipes produce the best quantity and quality of these mushroom varieties.

"These types of mushrooms are traditionally grown in substrates using a base of cotton husk however the availability of cotton husk in Australia is relatively limited and also expensive.

"Our research so far shows that good yields of another oyster mushroom variety can be achieved using a bagasse-based substrate' so we are confident of success with the new varieties. This project will allow us to work with Kenon Corporation to establish a successful regional branch for growing these new varieties for domestic markets'" Dr Li said.

Simon Tang' Director of Kenon Corporation' said domestic demand for rare mushroom varieties had grown in recent years and that the establishment of a new regional headquarters would help Kenon Corporation fill this demand.

"This branch will allow us to supplement the production of mushrooms and expand our operations to grow new varieties.

"A regional base will also help us to diversify our supply chains and minimise risk when it comes to supply chain disruptions.

"Along with being able to expand our operations regionally' the Bundaberg operations will allow us to access new networks and collaborate directly with researchers from CQUniversity who are renowned for their efforts in agricultural production and AgTech.

"We have realised the importance of research and development within our industry' including developing substrate recipes and production protocols' and I believe the Bundaberg agricultural ecosystem provides us with an exceptional opportunity to ramp up our R&D efforts'" Mr Tang said.

Mushroom growing trials are currently underway at the CQU Bundaberg campus and it is estimated the new farm factory will be operational in 12 to 18 months.