Table of Contents

1. Overview

  • Fungiculture is the process of producing food, medicine and other products by the cultivation of mushrooms and other fungi (like truffles). Unlike plants which depend on the sun, mushrooms rely on their growing medium for food and energy. Examples of this food-and-energy source are compost, mulched hay, sawdust and wood chips.
  • Four important mushroom species are grown commercially. These are the common cultivated mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, the Shiitake mushroom, Lentinula edodes, the oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus and the paddy-straw mushroom, Volvariella volvaceae. The common cultivated mushroom is the most important species with the greatest estimated global production.
  • Most mushrooms found in supermarkets have been commercially grown on mushroom farms i.e. in controlled, sterilised environments. Separating edible from poisonous species requires meticulous attention to detail, since there is no single trait by which all toxic mushrooms can be identified, nor one by which all edible mushrooms can be identified. The term 'gourmet mushroom' generally refers to any mushroom except the white and brown button mushroom commonly found in supermarkets.
  • Approximately 300 mushroom species have known medicinal properties, and another 1800 with potential medicinal properties have been identified. Extracts of medicinal mushrooms are used to increase disease resistance and to normalise body functions.
  • Mushrooms can also be used for dyeing wool and other natural fibres.

Find grower notes on


2. International business environment

Visit, website of the International Society for Mushroom Science.

Mushrooms are produced commercially in Europe (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain), the British Isles, the Far East (China, India, Japan, Korea), North America, Australia and South Africa.

Source: Optimal Utilisation of Thermal Springs in South Africa, WRC Report TT 577/13. 


3. For the newcomer

Find “Want to start a farm? Why not give mushrooms a shot?” for business advice at

Find grower guides under heading 5.


4. Role players

Associations and NGOs

Training and research

  • ARC-Infruitec/Nietvoorbij Mushroom Research Centre Dr W A Smit – 082 749 8553
  • ARC-PPR offers courses on demand at the Roodeplaat campus. For information regarding the courses, dates and prices, please contact: Dr Susan Koch at kochs [at]
  • Through the ARC-PPR Mushroom programme, significant contributions have been made to poverty relief. Communities are trained and production infrastructure established to produce oyster mushrooms for their own and local markets. Contact Dr Susan Koch at KochSH [at] or speak to her at 012 808 8108. For research on mushroom pests – Prof Eddie Ueckermann, UeckermannE [at]
  • IsiKhowe Juncao Mushroom Centre (Cedara) Tel: 033 355 9365 / 159 This Centre is part of the campaign to help alleviate poverty and food insecurity in rural KZN. Neil van Rij does mushroom research – 033 355 9159 or neil.vanrij [at] Alan Manson on campus is involved with truffle production. Contact him at 033 355 9464 or alan.manson [at]
  • Mushroon Guru Tel: 021 854 5126
  • Rhodes University Biochemistry and Microbiology Tel: 046 622 3984 J.Dames [at]
  • Shrooms, based in Newcastle (KZN) sells a mushroom production and business starter pack. They advise clients of different marketing techniques available, and hold seminars on mushroom growing. The starter pack includes an instruction manual. Visit or call 082 059 5972.