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I asked two groups of mushroom growers what mushroom their best seller is. It turns out that the most profitable (and medicinal) mushroom to grow on a small local market scale is unanimous with two runner-ups. Each grower sells various types of mushrooms, in different locations, and yet they all seem to share a common outcome.
Lion’s mane is currently the most profitable edible mushroom for local markets, and they happen to also be known for medicinal value. The second best-performing mushrooms are chestnuts and oysters.
Here are the comments made by everyday, small-scale, mushroom growers:
- Jack: “Lion’s mane. Quickest turnaround for me and an easy seller.”
- Samuel “People around here love lion’s mane and chestnut. . . They side fruit quite nicely and give multiple flushes when done that way. All our customers want them, so I’m gonna shift to growing more of them.”
- Aftermarket Mushrooms “Lion’s mane is my most profitable with fast colonization and huge fruiting on average.”
- Christina: “I literally can’t grow enough lion’s mane. We’ve expanded 3 times in a year and a half. We sell it fresh and dehydrated.”
- Nick: “Oyster, Lion’s Mane, Pioppinos”
- Kim: “Oysters, lions mane, and chestnut do best for me.”
- Becky: “Lion’s mane is the one I get asked for the most.”
- Mickey: “Lion’s mane.”
The reason lion’s mane seems to win is because it’s a highly versatile and mild-flavored mushroom. Not only does it adapt to any delicious meal, but the health benefits are relatively well-known more than other types of edible fungi.
Like shiitakes, they are a two-in-one gourmet edible and medicinal. Shiitake mushrooms, surprisingly, don’t seem to perform best in many/some small-scale direct-to-consumer markets. Some growers say shiitake is one of their best, but most are outdone by bigger companies who sell them cheaper at big stores.
I asked Kim, a mushroom grower: Have you tried growing other mushrooms that failed to sell in your market? She replied, “shiitake, because it’s grown too cheap in nearby large farms and travels well.”
So before you commit to producing shiitake mushrooms, look around to see if grocery stores already sell them at an unbeatable price. If shiitakes are nowhere to be found in your ‘neck of the woods’ then maybe you’ll have great success with them.
This same process applies to all mushrooms you grow—learn your market.
>> 10 Factors Influencing Mushroom Profits
>> Profitable Edible Mushrooms
a. Chestnut (Pholiota adiposa)
b. Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes)
c. Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus spp.)
d. Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)
>> Profitabale Medicinal Mushrooms
a. Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
b. Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor)
c. Cordyceps Mushroom (Cordyceps sinensis)
>> Cultivation Costs and Considerations
Factors Influencing Mushroom Profits
Learning your market is the first thing anyone should do before committing to creating a product. You need to know what you’re up against. If you don’t, your profits might suffer.
Numerous other factors also influence mushroom profits. The more of these factors you can optimize, the more mushroom business and profits you’ll have.
1. Local market demand
The bravery and level of consumer interest vary from area to area. What people want will directly impact your profits!
You could make and send out or perform a survey to learn about your local market and what they desire. We did this with our neighbors and got highly insightful responses. We learned not only what people currently liked, but their level of adventure into trying new things.
From there, you could take it further and send out a second survey, and ask about the purposes people eat mushrooms!
Each mushroom has unique purposes for consumption. Some can only be steeped as tea when consumed fresh, others are meaty and delicious in meals, and some are specifically known for brain health.
First, you could provide an open-answer section in the survey for a raw answer to your question. Then, on the next page, provide specific multiple choices!
Example survey question: What following benefits would you choose to consume a mushroom for? (a) brain health, (b) mild taste, (c) umami taste, (d) versatility, (e) immunity, (f) a warm, full-bodied, and mild-tasting medicinal tea, (g) preventing tooth decay, (h) other.
The list of reason could go ON! And you’d certainly intruige your soon-to-be customers with these types of answer-options!
2. Niche Markets
Specialty markets like gourmet restaurants or wellness industries may yield more profits as you scale up your production, or if you happen to find a niche demand for a specific type of mushroom.
Your high-quality fresh mushrooms can potentially be sold at premium prices to the right buyer.
Niche markets allow you not only to compete on price, but compete on quality. Mass produced anything is often lower quality, and therefore, lower price. Chefs with a buzzing customer base often look for high-quality ingredients to make high-quality dishes that, too, reflect premium pricing.
It’s efficient to sell a large quantity of mushrooms in one place that serves hundreds of peopole, than a mere pound per direct person.
Plus, chefs and their customers all talk about food to each other! You could gain paying customers if the restaraunt advertises where they source their ingredients. This would be a collaborative way to market your business as you could also encourage people to taste test your mushrooms via the chef who turns them into delicious cuisine!
3. Marketing strategies
Your marketing strategy starts with a memorable brand, but that’s just the beginning!
- Educate the locals about each mushroom, it’ll go a long way. They don’t know what they are missing if they don’t know about all the health benefits and flavor profiles!
- Write great descriptions. Each mushroom you sell is different and they all have unique selling points. Customers usually buy great descriptions of products before they‘re actually sold by said product.
- Have local signage, and an online presence.
- Join and contribute to forums and groups, especially local ones!
- Offer insentives to buy mushrooms—You could offer free samples, a loyalty program, or promote sustainable practices.
- Host educational or experiential events to teach customers about production or cooking. Treat that as an opportunity to offer tastings and have bags ready for purchase on their way out!
Mushroom grower, Will says “I like to use the comparison to meat, because not all meats have the same taste or texture nor do all mushroom species. If you eat 1 type of meat cooked 1 specific way, you can’t assume all the other types of meat or methods of cooking will be the same texture or flavor! Most have only tried 1 type of mushroom cooked 1 way and assume the rest will be identical. When there are countless ways to cook different types of mushrooms for different textures or flavors.”
The moral of this story is that you can offer education and taste-testing to customers in endless and various ways! Customers will be provided the opportunity to learn what they may fall in love with.
At the end of the day, educating your market about the taste, texture, versatility, and health benefits of various mushrooms will win the local people and businesses.
4. Cultivation costs
Mushrooms can be grown starting from various stages of the process. Each stage comes with more or less need for equipment and skill—therefore can be more or less expensive to cultivate.
You can begin growing mushrooms from a grow kit, a spawn bag, liquid cultures, plate cultures, slant cultures, or right from a mushroom.
The deeper you go, the more costly initial production set up will be. Plus, time and labor also increase.
Currently, we opt for spawn bags since our main focus is on outdoor mushroom logs.
Those with a heavier focus on indoor cultivation usually make their own spawn starting from liquid cultures. This lowers the cost, but doesn’t demand a labratory-style set up or skill to grow beginner mushrooms successfully.
Liquid cultures are usually a happy-medium that most growers use with beginner-level mushrooms.
5. Mushroom growth rates & yield
Each mushroom has varying growth rates. Shiitake mushrooms are most often grown on logs outdoors in small scales as they have a long growth rate. Lion’s mane, on the other hand, has a fast growth rate which allows a limited indoor area to have a higher turn over rate, therefore producing more mushrooms in less space than shiitake would.
The yield of each mushroom on a given amount of substrate is also a considerable factor. We are lucky that lion’s mane is so popular because while it’s a quick grower, they also offer a large size. With a larger size is a more weight volume per harvest.
Pioppinos are an example of a very light-weight mushroom. They yield well, but don’t weigh very much. So you’ll need to charge a higher price by weight or you’ll be losing. There’s no point in selling two ‘blocks’ worth of pioppinos at the same price as one ‘blocks’ worth of lions mane—when each block should yield a respective profit.
6. Cultivation difficulty level
If a batch of mushrooms fail, it’s a complete loss. Beginner-level mushrooms are best for any new mushroom business.
See: 4 Fail-Proof Mushrooms to Grow (in or outdoors!)
As you experience success, you can branch out and grow more advanced/specialty species—keeping in mind that as labor, skill, and time may increase, and so the cost of the mushroom may be worth more. Sometimes this can increase profit, decrease profit, or keep profits about the same.
Indoor grow-ops may offer mushrooms year-round, but not all mushrooms are efficiently grown indoors.
Therefore, something like shiitakes are perfect as a seasonal boost to your sales. Growing shiitake mushrooms on logs outside can increase yearly sales while optimizing your indoors space on space-efficient species.
If you have a lot of outdoor space, you could grow a lot more than shiitakes, too. Other mushrooms that grow on logs can also give you a seasonal output boost. Once you make logs, they produce for years. So, maybe they can act as a seasonal break from making mushroom bags indoors all the time.
8. Product management and creation
Fresh mushrooms have a short shelf-life. Rather than allowing any to go bad, you could dry them to turn into other products.
Reducing waste increases profits as mushroom-lovers are also interested in teas, extracts, or supplements.
Mud water is a good example of using dried mushrooms and offering a very profitable product.
Christina, a mushroom grower who sells fresh and dried mushrooms, says “We make coffee, soup mixes and teas. . . Here lions mane is very popular once dehydrated for its medical benefits.”
9. Sustainable production
We love mushroom logs because although they are seasonal producers, they produce very little waste. In fact, the logs themselves produce a product that our ecosystem loves.
Indoor mushroom cultivation can be quite wasteful in its use of bags and such, however, other less wasteful ways to grow mushrooms exist!
Mushroom buckets, mushroom bins, mushroom beds, and mushroom logs are the least-waste ways to grow mushrooms.
10. Current competition
Before diving into growing any mushroom, look at the current competition. You’ll either be beat in one way or another, and have to look to the cracks so you can rise.
Once you’re out from under with a customer base, it may be feasible to sell what your competition already sells.
Costco was selling maitake mushrooms for $10. That’s a pretty cheap price for an advanced mushroom to cultivate. Is it worth it for you to grow maitake and sell it for $10?
Certainly not in the beginning. But once you already have a Lionsmane-loving tribe of customers, they’re more likely to pick up some maitakes while they’re already here! Even if it’s a couple of bucks extra.
Most Profitable Edible Mushrooms to Grow
Edible gourmet mushrooms are usually the easiest market to tap into. Everyone loves deep flavors and satisfying textures in their food!
The best mushrooms to grow for profit should be healthy to eat, easy to grow, taste good, and look good.
In general, lion’s mane, chestnut, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms are the most profitable edible mushrooms to grow. Lion’s mane is mild and versatile. Chestnuts look fairytale and offer unique flavors. Oyster mushrooms come in various types and shiitakes are historically beneficial.
Keep reading to learn more about each one!
Chestnut mushroom (Pholiota adiposa)
They look stunning—and im sure their fairytale appearance is to blame for their popularity. I heard the stems are crunchy, and upon tasting them I was shocked by the experience! Crunchy indeed, like a juicy pepper but with the softness of a mushroom and a more nutty and subtle, hint of sweet butterscotch, flavor.
Chestnut mushrooms produce relatively big harvests for the medium provided, and local mushroom growers sell them for $10 per half pound. A block can produce 2-3 flushes of mushrooms with an average of 2-4 pounds of mushrooms each.
Like others, chestnut mushrooms are in demand either fresh or dried. Fresh mushrooms are wanted most for delicious sauteed mushrooms. Dried often have deeper flavor, but aren’t the same when sauteed fresh. Dried mushrooms are best added to liquidy foods to regain hydration.
Chestnut mushrooms can grow on logs, in bags, buckets, or bins. When cultivating indoors, it’s ideal to have your chestnuts in a somewhat controlled and humid environment. Bins and martha tents are perfect for this. When growing outdoors, ensure you have a humid climate or area to situate logs.
(Use qualityspawn for a discount on needed supplies)
We grow chestnuts on logs. Mushroom grower, Samuel, says they are “growing the chestnut inside. They side fruit quite nicely and give multiple flushes when done that way. All our customers want them, so I’m gonna shift to growing more of them.”
Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes)
Shiitake mushrooms are widely known across multiple cultures as a delicious edible and healing medicinal mushroom. These days, they’re most often consumed from dry, but fresh shiitakes are a real treat.
Dry shiitake mushrooms are often available at the grocery store and also generally contain increased levels of medicinal compounds.
Some areas offer commercially grown shiitake mushrooms. But many to this day, don’t! If you happen to live in an area where shiitakes are hard to come by, you’ll need to educate your market and provide a motive to start buying shiitake mushrooms once available!
Local mushroom growers tend to sell shiitake mushrooms for $10 CAD per half a pound or $17 CAD per pound.
Shiitake mushrooms are most efficiently grown outdoors. Indoor cultivation takes up time and more limited space. If indoor space is limited, it’ll be more profitable to grow a fast-growing strain such as oysters or lion’s mane.
If you have plenty of outdoor space, however, shiitake mushrooms grow great on hardwood logs. We use this plug spawn to make shiitake mushroom logs. Sawdust spawn is also an option, but you’ll need to invest in more tools upfront to inject the sawdust.
Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus spp.)
Oyster mushrooms are a sweet favorite. Any mushroom lover would add oysters to basically any meal.
They aren’t mainstream mushrooms in grocery stores due to their short shelf life. So a lot of people have to forage for their own oyster mushrooms or else they don’t get any.
Oysters grow quickly and are very easy to grow indoors on a wide variety of substrates. You could offer Italian oysters, blue oysters, golden oysters, snow oysters, or pink oysters! Not only will fresh oysters be attractive to any mushroom-lover, but all the choices of strains!
Local markets here sell their oyster mushrooms direct-to-consumer for $9 per half pound or $15 per pound.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)
Lion’s mane is like a furry-looking puffball. These are the best-selling mushrooms at any market stand. I believe their ‘white-ness’ is a particular selling point as most people who are iffy about mushrooms tend to say they only like the “white ones.”
So lion’s mane is often a winner for both mushroom-lovers and picky mushroom eaters.
Not only do they look appetizing and interesting, but are known for brain health benefits.
Lion’s mane is a beginner-level producer when grown indoors. They tend to give reliable large flushes with a quick turnaround time.
You can also grow lion’s mane on logs outdoors to either boost busy season sales, or have extra for drying, storing, and selling, without consuming every square inch of indoor space.
Health-conscious consumers who care for a long-lasting brain function will line up for lion’s mane.
Most Profitable Medicinal Mushrooms to Grow
Some of the most medicinal mushrooms aren’t hard to grow! But once you’ve grown them, you’ll need to sell them. Who’s buying?
Well, the good news about medicinal mushrooms is they are better dried rather than sold fresh. In general, it’s known that mushrooms contain more medicinal compounds after the drying process, especially when sun-dried.
Once dried, they’ll last a lot longer, providing you with a good window without worrying about selling them! In the meantime, you could also make tincture extracts or a new version of “MUD WTR“. Give MUD water a taste, then perhaps try making your own spin!
A lot of supplements and such online questionably contain what you pay for. So the easiest way to become a trusted brand is to talk about your growing process and educate customers about the health benefits.
Sell direct-to-consumer, or to holistic doctors and naturopaths.
Even dog owners are looking to give their dogs the benefits of high-quality medicinal mushrooms.
The market is there, which ones will you tap into?!
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center explains, “Reishi mushroom is used in many Asian countries to increase energy, boost the immune system, and for general health. Reishi supplements come as capsules, tablets, extracts, powders, and teas.”
As people are shifting to more health-conscious ways of life, we all want more energy and better immunity against anything around the corner!
Hemlock reishi is for advanced growers, however, red reishi is very easy to cultivate indoors.
Since you can dry it for selling, a long shelf life allows for high profits with minimal waste.
Plus, reishi is generally well known and its benefits are no secret.
Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor)
Turkey tail is another incredibly easy medicinal mushroom to grow inside in bags or outside on logs. This medicinal species is an aggressive grower and isn’t easily overtaken by other strains of mushrooms.
Turkey tail is known for immune modulation and the demand for naturally immunity-supportive products is on the rise. People are looking to prevent getting sick since health care is getting harder to access!
Cordyceps Mushroom (Cordyceps sinensis)
Cordyceps are known to improve health and general performance.
If you’re planning to enter the market, it’s a reasonably high-ticket medicinal mushroom and the market is expected to increase!
A lot of sellers offer cordyceps in various forms, see current products and prices for selling cordyceps.
Cultivation Costs and Considerations
Your business plan is only as far away as ruminating each aspect of a mushroom business. Go through the following list of items and put together a plan detailing what you’ll need and how much it’ll cost.
Understanding and planning for each factor will impact profitability, sustainability, and long-term success. Various costs and considerations should be thought through before getting started.
- Infrastructure: Indoor and outdoor cultivation requires a setup. Indoor grow spaces need to be easily cleaned, temperature regulated, and more (learn more). Outdoor grow areas need shade but also bright light and access to rain
- Equipment: The cost of startup equipment depends on multiple factors. See: 6 Ways to Grow Mushrooms at Home (Compared)
- Raw Materials: You’ll need material for your mushrooms to consume! This includes grain, straw, wood chips, sawdust, compost, coco coir, coffee grounds, and more. The best substrate to get depends on local pricing and availability as well as the preference of the mushroom you’re growing.
- Preparation: Some substrates, in some circumstances, need to be processed and sterilized, which requires equipment like pressure cookers or steam generators. But most of the time small-scale growers get away without having to do this step, particularly for beginner-level mushrooms. If growing outdoors, log preparation includes cutting a healthy tree down, and allowing it to sit for 2-4 weeks before inoculating. If logs sit for longer, you’ll need to soak them for 24-48 hours before plugging.
- Labor Costs: Cultivation requires time and effort for tasks like substrate purchasing and preparation, inoculation, maintenance, harvesting, packaging, and selling.
- Skill Level: Skill level can be the difference between failing and success. It takes more skill to troubleshoot and grow mushrooms beyond the beginner level.
- Space Availability: Indoor space is always limited! So consider what you can produce within the space you have. Some species are better grown outside even for the sake of saving space for more suitable species.
- Equipment Upgrade: As production scales up, you might need to invest in larger equipment or space to increase efficiency.
Sustainability and Long-Term Profitability:
- Consistency: Ensuring consistent product quality and yields is crucial for building customer trust and securing long-term profitability—chefs or holistic practitioners are more likely to require consistency than direct-to-consumer sales.
- Diversification: Consider cultivating multiple mushroom varieties to diversify offerings, but don’t spread yourself too thin by growing everything right off the bat. Start with what works best, and test your market before growing a ton of new variety.
- Market Research: Before starting assess your market. While operating, regularly assess market trends, consumer preferences, and emerging niches to adapt what you offer accordingly.
- Efficiency Improvements: Explore and implement ways to improve efficiency, reduce waste, and optimize resource use.
- Sustainable Practices: Compost substrates, and reduce energy consumption where possible.
- Budgeting: Create a budget to account for all expenses, including fixed costs (infrastructure, equipment) and variable costs (substrates, labor).
- Pricing Strategy: Set prices to cover costs that are also competitive in your market. Avoid lowering yourself to the cost of commercial button mushrooms! Premium or specialty mushrooms would justify higher prices.
- Return on Investment (ROI): Calculate the time it will take to recoup your initial investment and ensure a reasonable ROI.
- For indoor cultivation, implement a sanitization routine to prevent contamination that would result in lost yields.
- For outdoor cultivation, be prepared for and expect weather fluctuations that could affect seasonal growth and harvests.
By carefully considering these factors, you can create a well-rounded business plan that addresses cultivation costs, efficiency improvements, scalability, sustainability, and long-term profitability in the mushroom farming industry.
Beginner-level mushrooms are the most profitable for beginner-level skills!
High-value mushrooms with a low success rate are less profitable than a high success rate with lower-cost mushrooms.
As you level up your experience and skills, you’ll be able to grow higher-value mushrooms with consistent success.
Make a plan and get quality mushroom spawn for a discount (use QUALITYSPAWN at checkout).
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