Diners at the Bunker, a Vietnamese restaurant in Brooklyn, may not realise that the mushrooms in their bánh mì were grown in a blue-tinted, spaceship-looking “mini farm” underneath their seats. But it’s just one of a growing number of plug-in fungi farms mushrooming in New York City.
Smallhold, the company that created the idea, grows around 100 pounds of various mushroom types a week, then distributes them three-quarters grown to climate-controlled, do-it-yourself mini “farms” around the city. The mushrooms finish growing within the automated units, while a remote technician adjusts humidity, airflow and temperature, offering chefs on-the-spot, fresh and self-replenishing batches of a food item that has a short shelf-life.
The units could also work for perishables such as lettuce and herbs but the company is currently focused on catching the rising fashion for exotic mushrooms. “Mushrooms are amazing. Mushrooms are the future,” co-founder Andrew Carter gushed to the Guardian. “When you usually find them, they tend to be really gross looking on the shelves because they’ve been sitting in trucks. This way, we can give them [the customers] a brand-new experience with mushrooms.”
They currently sell nine mushroom varieties, including oyster, lion’s mane, shiitake and pioppino.