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How to Start a Mushroom Farm

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Published on January 27, 2022

Updated on September 23, 2022

How to Start a Mushroom Farm

Disclaimer: Step by Step Business’ content is for informational and educational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional legal or tax advice. All of our articles are thoroughly reviewed and fact-checked by our editorial team. Read our editorial guidelines for more details.

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Fast Facts

Investment range

$3,050 - $6,900

Revenue potential

$84,000 - $170,000 p.a.

Time to build

3-6 months

Profit potential

$70,000 - $135,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

How to Start a Mushroom Farm

Mushrooms are healthy, tasty, and considered by many to be a superfood with medicinal benefits. It’s no surprise that the US farm mushroom market is worth more than $1 billion and still growing. 

You may not know that farm mushrooms are grown indoors, and with just 500 square feet of space you could grow 6 tons (12,000 pounds) of mushrooms every year. You could start your own farm and provide healthy and delicious food to your community while making a good living. 

While growing mushrooms is fairly easy, starting a mushroom farm is sure to have its challenges. One key is knowing what you’re getting into, which is fully detailed in this step-by-step guide that will put you well on your way to growing mushrooms — and your bankroll.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Being a mushroom farmer and starting a mushroom business has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you.

Pros

  • Improve Health – Provide a superfood to the masses
  • Good Margins – High markups on quality mushrooms
  • Flexibility – Grow at home, little ongoing work required

Cons

  • Space Needed – At least 500 square feet required
  • Messy – A farm in your house gets a little dirty

Mushroom farm industry trends

Globally, mushrooms are booming. The world mushroom market is worth more than $50 billion and expected to grow at a stunning 10% annual rate through 2030.[1]https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/mushroom-market Keep in mind that the US is the world’s second-leading mushroom producer. 

Industry size and growth

  • Industry size and past growth – The US mushroom market was valued at $1.15 billion in 2020, a 3% increase from the previous year[2]https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Wisconsin/Publications/Crops/2020/US-Mushrooms-08-20.pdf, and $2.5 billion in 2021.
  • Growth forecast – The US mushroom industry is projected to grow at least 9% annually through 2030.
  • Number of businesses – There were more than 300 commercial mushroom growers  in the US in 2019.[3]https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/specialty-crops/mushrooms-profile
mushroom industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Trends in the mushroom farm industry include:

  • Mushrooms are currently one of the top trending foods, growing in popularity in restaurants, in home cooking, and beyond. There is also a preference for small farm, organic, and locally produced mushrooms. This means more opportunity for new market entrants. 
  • New products made with mushrooms are popping up, including mushroom jerky and mushroom chips, presenting mushroom entrepreneurs with an opportunity to be creative with their products.

Challenges also exist in the mushroom farm industry, including:

  • Mushroom farming has become very popular among entrepreneurs, creating more competition.
  • It can be difficult to find quality mushroom spores to begin to grow mushrooms.
mushroom industry Trends and Challenges

Popular products

The most commercially produced mushrooms in the US are: 

  1. Agaricus (97.5%)
  2. Oyster (1%)
  3. Shiitake (0.9%)
popular mushroom products

How much does it cost to start a mushroom farm business?

Startup costs for a mushroom farm range from around $3,000 to $7,000. The main costs are for equipment for temperature and humidity control. You might also want to get a grow kit, and mushroom spawn, or start with a particularly gourmet mushroom like the button mushroom. 

These numbers also assume that you have adequate space to grow mushrooms. If you have a large basement or open room, you might start growing mushrooms there. If you have a backyard, you could build a greenhouse, which would run you about $10,000. If you don’t have either of these things, you’ll need to rent a space to grow your mushrooms. 

You can take an online mushroom growing class through a site like Udemy. It costs less than $20 and takes less than 4 hours. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your business, including: 

  • Space heaters
  • Humidifiers
  • De-humidifiers
  • Straw of other cultivation materials
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Temperature control and humidifying equipment$1,000 - $2,000$1,500
Straw or other cultivation materials$200 - $300$250
Mushroom spores$300 - $500$400
Total$3,050 - $6,900$4,975

How much can you earn from a mushroom farm business?

Oyster mushrooms are the easiest and fastest to grow and sell for an average of $7 per pound. As a solopreneur, your profit margin should be about 80%.

With 500 square feet you can produce 12,000 pounds a year, bringing in $84,000 in annual revenue. This would mean nearly $70,000 in profit, assuming that 80% margin. As your brand gains recognition you could expand to 1,000 square feet and double production. With annual revenue of almost $170,000, you would make about $135,000 in profit. 

Mushroom Farm earnings forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a mushroom farm business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Finding the space to build your grow room
  • Learning to properly cultivate mushrooms

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a mushroom farm, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research mushroom farms in your area to examine their products, price points, and what sells best. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a Shitake mushroom farm.

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as organic or specialty mushrooms, or a product such as mushroom jerky.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your products or services

You’ll need to determine first what types of mushrooms you want to grow. Oyster mushrooms are the easiest and fastest to grow, so you might want to start with those. Then you should decide if you want to learn to make products with your mushrooms such as jerky to earn additional revenue. That would add to your expenses, including packaging costs.

How much should you charge for mushrooms?

If you sell to consumers, you can charge about $7 per pound for oyster mushrooms. Specialty mushrooms can sell for much more – up to $16 per pound, but they are harder to grow. If you sell oyster mushrooms to retailers at wholesale prices, you can probably charge about $5 per pound. Your ongoing costs will be low if you work alone, so you should aim for a profit margin of 80%.

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price point. Remember, the price you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will be mushroom lovers, which is a broad category, so you should spread out your marketing efforts to reach different age groups. You can reach people on sites like Instagram, Facebook and FoodNetwork. However, you can probably sell more by going to grocery stores and supermarkets. You can target store owners on sites like LinkedIn or you can call or visit them directly.

Where? Choose your business premises

In the early stages, you’ll probably want to grow your mushrooms at home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you may want to expand and rent a growing space. Find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
mushroom farm business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “mushrooms” or “mushroom farm”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
  • Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
  • Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist at Fiverr to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to mushroom farms. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your mushroom farm will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using ZenBusiness’s online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family or personal funds, for funding a mushroom farm.

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Starting a mushroom farm requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as, health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your mushroom farm business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

You can use industry-specific software, such as Fancom, Hectre, or Si, to manage your growing, harvesting, billing, and costs.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Marketing

Some of your business will come from the casual online visitors, but still, you should invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness. 

Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products: 

  • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area. 
  • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
  • Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure to optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Buy Now”. This can sharply increase purchases.
  • Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers. 

Kickstart Marketing

Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include:

  • Flyering – Distribute flyers in your neighborhood and at industry events. 
  • In-Person Sales – Offer your mushrooms at local markets.
  • Email marketing/newsletter – Send regular emails to customers and prospects. Make them personal. 
  • Seek out referrals – Offer incentives to generate customer referrals to new clients. 
  • Press releases – Do press releases about new products, sales, etc.
  • Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
  • Pay–per-click marketing – Use Google AdWords to perform better in searches. Research your keywords first.

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your mushroom farm meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your mushroom farm business could be:

  • Homegrown mushrooms for healthy eating
  • Organic mushrooms at your door in 24 hours or less! 
  • Specialty mushrooms for your gourmet recipes
unique selling proposition

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a mushroom farm, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in mushrooms for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in mushroom farms. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

If you’re starting out small from home you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you may expand to a larger growing space and need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a mushroom farm business would include:

  • Laborers – harvest mushrooms
  • General Manager – scheduling, staff management, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media, call on retailers

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Start Making Money!

Growing mushrooms on your own farm, whether in your basement or a rented space, can be a lucrative venture. Mushrooms have many benefits that go beyond their delicious taste, which is why they are a multi-billion-dollar industry in the US. 

Once you’ve developed a green thumb for mushrooms, you’ll start bringing in a nice chunk of change. You’ve done your business homework, so now it’s time to start growing mushrooms and a profitable business!

Mushroom Farm Business FAQs

How much does it cost to start a mushroom farm?

You can start a mushroom farm for as little as $3,000 in your own home. You just need some temperature and humidity control equipment and cultivating materials such as straw or logs. 

Can a mushroom farm be profitable?

Mushrooms can be grown very inexpensively and sold for $7 to $16 per pound, so yes, mushroom farms can be very profitable. Even in a 500-sq-ft space in your home you can grow up to 12,000 pounds of mushrooms a year and have a nice payday.

Do I need a license to start a mushroom farm?

There is no specific license required, but you may need business licenses and permits at the state and local levels. Check with your local governments for requirements or visit MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance page.

What are the easiest mushrooms to grow?

Oyster mushrooms are the easiest and fastest mushrooms to grow and can be ready for harvest within 3-to-5 weeks. Other mushrooms that are easy to grow include Shitake, wine cap, and Pioppino mushrooms.