HUSON - From Huson, Montana all the way up to the moon, Garden City Fungi is changing the game. With what you may ask? Mycelium, which is the branching root of a mushroom fungus.
“Mushrooms are the premier recyclers of our planet. Mushrooms can eat oil. (They're) pretty good at cleaning up a lot of, you know, chemical issues," Garden City Fungi owner Glen Babcock said.
Mycelium has been connecting life for hundreds of millions of years. It not only has the power to make a zero-waste, circular ecosystem but also to help grow food in space. But there's a problem: there's no CO2 source in space.
“We have to take the CO2 with us if we’re gonna go into space and grow food, we gotta have it," said Babcock.
That's where Exhale bags come into play. And it all starts with sawdust.
Craig Belanger of Garden City Fungi explained what the Exhale bag is and how they make them.
“So this is the mixing room. And what we’re doing here is we’re taking the sawdust that we get from local sawdust companies, hardwood mills, and things of that sort in town. What we’re doing is we’re taking the hardwood chips and we’re mixing them in the ribbon blender. Of course, we add a few other things, some things to add [are] proteins, and a lot of water. And once we mix the material up in the ribbon blender then it’s gonna come out of the shoots and into one of these bags. Basically what [the exhale bag] is a fancy chicken broasting bag that has a filter that allows the gaseous exchange to happen so oxygen can go in and CO2 can come out. Then, [the bags] go into the autoclaves. What’s happening in the autoclaves is we’re gonna use steam to bring the temperature up to a certain temperature, let it cook for about 8 hours, and that way we know that the only thing that’s gonna be living on that sawdust is what we introduce to it. Then we’ll open up the doors on the clean side, pull the carts out, and let them cool. Once they come down to a certain temperature below 89, 88 degrees then we know they’re ready to be inoculated.” - Craig Belanger , Garden City Fungi
Inoculation occurs when the mycelium gets added to the Exhale bags. The bags sit for a few days and then are ready to ship. Once purchased, you can hang the bag in your greenhouse to help increase the yield of plants and food.
But Earth is not where the utility of the bags stops. Exhale bags can help grow food in space. Recently, Garden City Fungi teamed up with Florida Atlantic University to send a tiny Exhale bag into space.
"One rode on the outside and was truly exposed to the elements of space. It survived minus 40 Celsius, it went to roughly 100,000 feet, was exposed to cosmic rays, came back, and we have successfully cultivated it here in our lab," Babcock said. "And to my knowledge, we are the first company that’s ever sent mycelium to space.”
Once in space, the Exhale bags can grow food in closed, greenhouse-like environments. The next phase of the mission is to use some of Florida Atlantic’s moon soil to try and grow mycelium and then repeat the space exposure test.
It looks like mushrooms could be the future of life on our planet and on many others.