The Benjamin Logan Fungus Experiment
Mr. Bruce Smith & Faculty,
It was great to tour the land lab a couple weeks back and hear about the progress the science department is making with food production, beekeeping and to see that you’re dipping your toes into shiitake logs. The prospect of collaborating with you through your mushroom program is genuinely exciting and I’m motivated to find a way to work together. Below I’ve given a bit of information about my history with mycology, a few immediate project overviews that come to mind and several more in depth experiments that may come into play down the road.
Your consideration and feedback in regards to this project are much appreciated.
Roman Titus Comer
Aside from being a Benjamin Logan alum, and having Mr. Bruce Smith as my science teacher way back in the day, I’m a self-taught mycologist that has been working with mycelium for over 5 years. I’ve toured mushroom farms in India, Thailand, Vietnam and in multiple states here in the US to learn all I can about the theory of mushroom cultivation, from high-tech to the lowest of techs. The last 4 years have been exclusively dedicated to building hardware and software to control the mushroom fruiting environment. In 2016, I designed a hardware prototype that grew mushrooms in Google Chicago’s cafeteria for a year and in 2017, I was certified on Paul Stamets’ farm in Washington for mushroom cultivation. I’ve recently moved back to Ohio from Chicago to expand my focus from personalized, computer controlled growing units to create a fully operation gourmet and medicinal mushroom farm.
Land Lab Projects
As I toured your operations, Bruce and I discussed several possibilities for ways to collaborate based on your current operations and resources. I’ve outlined three below.
Paul Stamets, an Ohio native, is a patriarch and pioneer in the fungus field. Among other incredible uses for mushrooms and mushroom mycelium, he has recently released new findings on utilizing polypore mushroom extracts to inoculate bees against a couple viruses caused by the varroa mite. While Paul’s studies show that G. resinaceum (Red Reishi) and F. fomentarius (Amadou), both native to the Pacific Northwest, had the most effect, G. appalantum (Artist’s Conk) and T. versicolor (Turkey Tail) also moved the needle and are both native to Ohio. I believe it’s worth exploring their effects further, and other native polypores such as C. squamosus (Pheasant Back). This mitigates the risk of spreading foreign, invasive species, as well as gives us the chance to explore and pioneer a localized solution.
Mushroom mycelium is nature’s decomposer and has been shown to pull heavy metals out of soil, E. coli from water streams, such as farm run-off streams, and its even capable of breaking down the large hydrocarbon chains found in petroleum oil. This would entail creating bunker spawn, or large myceliated straw bails inside of burlap sacks and placed in streams or directly into the soil. There are a clear applications for this project in an agriculture region such as ours.
In the service of food production, outdoor cultivated gardens of mushrooms is a solid direction to head in. This would be an ongoing project that would allow us to partner with local tree removal/trimer services to identify preferred species of wood, as logs or chips, to take a waste product and utilize it for food production, as well as help speed up its decomposition. There are multiple mushroom species that this would allow us to grow such as, Oyster, Nameko, Lion’s Mane, Wine Cap, Maitake, Shiitake, Reishi and even Morels.
As this project matures, there are possibilities to explore the use of more agricultural waste products as mushroom substrate, such as corn stalks, straw, manure and soybean hulls.
The above projects don’t take into account the multiple projects available to us with the addition of indoor controlled environment cultivation or sterile lab work. Below are just a few of the ideas I’ve been intrigued with over the years, which could be utilized either as class applications or individualized science fair projects.
I would love to partner with the team at Benjamin Logan on this scientific and agricultural journey. There are certainly other ways of collaborating beyond what has been outlined here and I’m open to any ideas you may have as well. With your passion for the generation and dissemination of knowledge and my experience with fungus and technology, I’m sure we can do something incredible together.
Thank you for your time and consideration.