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 several years, we have been building a platform tailored to the mushroom cultivator’s needs. It is an IoT-enabled controlled environment enclosure that allows a user to cultivate this finicky crop by set environmental parameters, monitor activity and optimize yields.
This future lies within our grasp, come be a part of it.
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.
The Agricultural Industrial Complex gives us low quality product and creates high product waste (40%)
Climate change and soil depletion are making traditional farming less productive
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.
Decentralized, distributed controlled environment farming that is accessible and scalable can help us prepare for and invent the future of farming. We’ve built an IoT system that will empower individuals to produce their own food and medicine through farming. Controlled environment farming will allow people to grow all kinds of non-native varieties of foods in their region. And with the power of our data, scaling grow sizes is as easy as basic math. We’re building an IoT LEGO farm that scales intelligently.
Our beachfront strategy is to enter through a user-assembled unit called the Builder’s Kit, paired with curriculum to teach high school students how to build, code, farm and bring a crop to market. We believe to change a society’s behavior, you have to speak to the youth. Through this effort we’ll get users, awareness and data that enables us to scale the system up, while offsetting the cost of R&D.
The large market we're addressing is the mushroom cultivation market, those growing fresh, dried and canned product. Mushrooms have been identified as a superfood and as such have become the new major food trend (sorry kale). 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 expected to hit $50 billion in the next seven years.
Even though we’re starting with mushrooms, our system isn’t solely tied that crop. We’ve aged a nice camembert cheese in one of our units, and curing meats and cultivating potted plants are next up for trial runs. With these additions, we’ll be addressing larger the indoor farming market, a $14.6B market domestically, and $106.6B globally.
Finally, the outside horse that we are watching is the psychedelic mushroom market . This market has the most obvious 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, the City of Denver will be be making history by voting on decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms on May 7th, 2019, and Oregon aims to move to a vote in 2020. Perhaps most interesting, a GOP legislator in Iowa has proposed an amendment to declassify psilocin and psilocybin down to Schedule IV. This is exciting because this is the first lawmaker to propose the change, rather than a special interest group. Legalization talks have been centered on personal use, possession and personal growth, not grow facilities and dispensaries like cannabis. Because of its legal status, no solid market size research has been done on this group, so it's hard to know how big it truly is.
In order to maintain a fully-scalable system, each of our units is equipped with a single-board computer that serves as a localized brain. This allows us to use each unit as an edge computing device. By architecting the system in this manner, we have a hub to communicate with if we wanted to further expand the local instances of sensors and actuators. We’re able to reduce the amount of information that we have to transfer to our cloud-hosted database by offloading some of the data processing to the single-board computer. This reduces operating costs and lets the unit continue to function during a loss of connection.
As the possibilities of connectivity expand with the introduction of 5G and LoRaWAN networks, we can continue to expand the building block nature of our system. The code that we’ve written for the unit is structured in a way that allows us to constantly expand on the methods we use to read data and make data-based decisions to ensure a perfect growing environment.
Our earliest unit was prototyped in Google Chicago's cafeteria. The unit consistently yielded 7 pounds a week for 10 months, 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.
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.
We are now in partnership talks with large corporations, CPS, charter schools and others in the education space. Below are some images of our event with ComEd, where over 50 high school students learned to build our grow kits and will take them back to their class rooms to lean how to grow mushrooms. Since this event, we’ve been asked by ComEd to do another larger one in fall, Walgreen’s has expressed interest in sponsoring a workshop, as does Chicago Public Schools and Mars, through the Seeds of Change grant.
The education approach is also working towards the modular farm vision, as we’re also in conversation with ComEd about purchasing a couple shipping container sized units for CPS’s use. Thus leveraging our R&D for larger farms, through our entrance into the education space.
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.
Another company, Smallhold, in New York is doing subscription-based onsite food growing. Their focus is on growing multiple crops in units placed in high-end restaurants and groceries; novelty growing.
There is also an open source software called Mycodo that was built, and is still supported, by a biological scientist named Kyle Gabriel.
If you have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org