My name is Roman Titus. I'm building the future of controlled environment mushroom farming.
I want your help.
If you're reading this then I've asked you to partner with me, to join your resources (capital, network and business savvy) with my resources (vision, passion, ingenuity and resilience).
Sojourn Fare will change the future of mushroom cultivation by making it flexible, predictable and accessible. For the last two years, we have been building a platform tailored to the mushroom cultivator’s needs. It is an IoT regulated habitat that allows a user to cultivate this finicky crop by controlling environment parameters, monitoring activity and optimizing yields.
1. 2/3 of the world's population will be urbanized by 2030 meaning less room and more people living in food deserts and food unstable areas.
2. The population is growing at such a rate that we've got to figure out how to produce 70% more food over the next 30 years.
3. 1 in 3 American households already grow food at home. That's 42 million households with the fastest rising segment being Millennial households increasing 63% over a five year period.
4. Right now, there is a food enlightenment occurring around the world. Healthy, ethical, local and sustainable foods have become more important than ever to today's modern, proactive consumer.
As our food production needs rise and our populations move towards urban environments, the individual grower becomes paramount. The data support and technical infrastructure doesn't exist to help foster growers and allow them to succeed and expand. People want to, and already do, grow their own food but they want to grow more than leafy greens and herbs.
A recent report found that while the demand for mushrooms continue to rise, the production is waning. Why? Because of the lack of effective production skills. The primary pain points of mushroom production are the sterile work necessary to spawn mushrooms and the consistent environmental control needed to incubate and fruit them. One mistake can ruin months of work and dishearten even the most resilient of cultivators.
Mushrooms are hard to grow and no one is making it easier.
Empower people to cultivate mushrooms by building connected hardware and an environment-control platform.
We've built our initial prototype which is currently patent pending. Our next step will be to build a market-ready prototype based on this unit. This tabletop sized grow unit will be capable of cultivating two pounds of mushrooms per week and will launch on Kickstarter.
Prototyping hardware takes time. So, in addition to creating this consumer grow unit we will also build a production facility to create, incubate and ship the mushroom substrates that users purchase for their home grows. These substrates allow them to cultivate multiple varieties of mushrooms on a weekly basis. We’ll also build our brand and a community (which are essential for a successful Kickstarter) through an online resource library, social media network, strategic partnerships, press and events.
Backed by the success of our Kickstarter campaign, we will sell our product in major homeware stores and begin developing more products and software to support the global GIY movement.
The clear market we're addressing is the mushroom market, which includes fresh, dried and canned product. Mushrooms have been identified as a superfood and as such have become the new major food trend (sorry kale). The big question is how to get around their short shelf life. In the US, this market is $9.5 billion and expected to grow to $15 billion in the next 3 years. The global demand for mushrooms is $50 billion, split evenly between gourmet and medicinal uses.
That said, the other market we're looking at is the DIY Gardening market, or as we call it, 'GIY.' This segment is led by millenials and food gardening. Americans are increasingly passionate about growing food at home, as 1 in 3 households currently grow their own food. As the need to know where our food comes from increases so does the desire to grow one's own food.
We're also watching the psychedelic mushroom market closely. This market has the most immediate need for a product like ours. Based on the 2010 census, the US National Library of Medicine estimates there are 32 million psychedelic users in the USA. On top of that, in their mid-term elections this year, California and Colorado will be voting on legalizing psychedelic mushrooms, and by 2020 Oregon will be voting on it. Legalization talks have been centered on personal grows and medical use, not grow facilities and dispensaries like cannabis. Because of its illegality, no solid market size research has been done on this group so it's hard to know how big it truly is. What we do know is that there are 128,000 active members on shroomery.org, the industry preeminent forum for growing mushrooms.
MARKET SHARE (.5%)
32 Million users
Our earliest unit was prototyped in Google Chicago's cafeteria. The unit consistently yielded 7 pounds of mushrooms weekly which were served in their cafeteria.
After that, we created a medium sized prototype which grows 50 lbs. of mushrooms a week. This unit had more sensors, more modifiers and is able to control its environment much more tightly than its predecessor. We were invited to showcase it at a Rick Bayless event at The Hatchery in Chicago.
We have the full support and excitement of the President of The Mushroom Council who leads the USDA's commission to make mushrooms a staple in the American diet. I’ve also spoken with mushroom cultivators in Switzerland, Vietnam, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania, New York, Colorado, Ohio and Illinois all of whom have expressed struggles with controlling their mushroom growing environment.
Our current yields are 40 times greater than the average mushroom yield and, every chef that has seen these mushrooms have been amazed at the quality, size and freshness of the product. We're clearly on to something.
The current environmental control system is from The Netherlands, made by the Christiaens Group. Its enterprise level with a price tag no individual or beginning farmer could afford.
MIT has also been working on a similar unit called the OpenAg Initiative. They focus on traditional crops, rather than mushrooms. I've met with one of their consultants and had a riveting discussion around the work itself. They are an open source non-profit with no plan to enter the marketplace.
A more modern company, Smallhold, in New York is doing subscription-based onsite food growing. Their focus is on growing multiple crops in units placed in restaurants and groceries. They are focused B2B installations.