Mushroomate is a small, New Zealand family business that started from a school sustainability project, growing oyster mushrooms using easily accessible, reusable, and recyclable goods. Amazed at how easy it was to grow premium quality, delicious mushrooms at home, they have been hooked ever since. They have made it their goal to manufacture and distribute grow-it-yourself mushroom kits to encourage Kiwi families, schools, and local communities to learn how to grow local New Zealand mushroom varieties, rather than imported mushroom species. Here, founder Esperanza Reyes talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind Mushroomate and their business journey so far.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
I was helping my Year 8 daughter on her school sustainability project back in 2019. She wanted to do a vegetable garden, but we live in Auckland, and we don’t have a lot of garden space, so I kept looking for what we could grow with such a small space. We finally had this perfect idea of growing oyster mushrooms using waste materials (used coffee grounds free from my work cafe, cheap barley straw) and re-usable/recycled buckets, and we started growing oyster mushrooms in our bathroom. We are self-taught and did a lot of research on how to grow oyster mushrooms because we didn’t have any background in mycology. My daughter and I gave this oyster mushroom growing a try and to top it up, we decided to support our NZ endemic/native mushrooms. We are amazed at how we managed to grow oyster mushrooms at home very easily and we decided to extend this school project for others to experience and enjoy!
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Our fascination with cultivating NZ endemic/native mushroom varieties is definitely something to be proud of. We started offering fresh mushrooms on social media and eventually joined our local farmers’ market.
We cannot believe how much support we had for saving our edible fungi and we are definitely enjoying the journey with our newfound passion and all the health benefits that come with it.
We are also proud to say that all our suppliers are based in New Zealand. Growing our NZ endemic/native mushroom varieties together is an endless opportunity and we will never stop learning and sharing.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
Through research, we learned that NZ fungi are one of the species that are under conservation threat and at high-risk of becoming extinct. We would like to help with awareness of fungal conservation and food sovereignty by cultivating NZ endemic/native mushrooms.
Our New Zealand oyster mushrooms enjoy a terrific reputation as the most forgiving, easiest to cultivate, richly nutritious, and medicinally supportive. We have been hooked ever since and we feel like our world has opened up!
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
We definitely grew our business for the past 3 years and we needed more space to grow enough oyster mushrooms while keeping a low-tech way of working. We have moved to a rural space as we’ve grown out of our double garage in the suburbs. The learning never ends when you are a mushroom grower, and our family is even closer than ever before.
We make sure we are having fun on every mushroom kit we make, and we definitely take the time to celebrate small successes on both our business and family journey.