Microbiologist receives Georgia Research Alliance award for mushroom cultivation

Jul 16, 2020

Imagine being able to sustainably produce a nutritious and delicious food product that is not constrained by specific environmental conditions required to support a predominately plant-based agricultural industry.

Kennesaw State University researcher Christopher Cornelison is exploring the possibilities of improving the food supply chain by leveraging innovative technology to expand the opportunities for mushroom production in Georgia.

“We must be able to develop sustainable methods for producing readily preserved and nutritious foods without regional climactic limitations,” said Cornelison, an assistant professor of microbiology in the College of Science and Mathematics and director of the BioInnovation Laboratory at KSU. “Mushrooms are an ideal crop as they only rely on three environmental factors that can be regulated to optimize growth yield—humidity, temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations.”
Although sales of these spore-bearing fruiting bodies of fungi accounted for more than $3.1 billion in U.S. economic impact according to a 2019 American Mushroom Institute report, they are still underutilized.

Cornelison said more than half of the nation’s mushroom production is associated with a single county in Pennsylvania. The substrate used in this production, primarily mulch, is transported from the Midwest to meet the demand.

That is why Cornelison is now focused on determining the feasibility of growing culinary and commodity mushrooms in Georgia via low-cost and efficient production systems housed in modified shipping containers with embedded environmental control systems.

With a new $25,000 award from the venture development program of the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), Cornelison’s goal is to study the potential commercialization of growing these mushrooms on media or substrates of regional agricultural wastes such as peanut shells, corn chaff or spent brewing grains.

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