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Demand for specialty mushrooms surges

April 20, 2022

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, Nirmal Nair acted on a long-held idea: opening a mushroom farm.

“In the back of my head, there’s always been this wanting to get back to wellness, and build something remarkable for the benefit of people, pets and the planet,” Nair said.

A mechanical engineer by trade, Nair launched his Morgan Hill mushroom farm, Sempera Organics, in late December 2019. The arrival of the pandemic on U.S. shores less than three months later only reinforced his interest, he said.

“You go read about mushrooms, one of the first things you learn is how it helps your body with immunity,” Nair said. “That was, I would say, a driving force to say, ‘now is the time.'”

Nair’s company specializes in medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, cordyceps and lion’s mane, each of which, he said, comes with its own benefits for restfulness, oxygen use and mental clarity. These mushrooms, he said, will find their way into “nutriceuticals,” such as dietary supplements.

“It is not your conventional mushroom farm, or your concept of what a mushroom farm would look like,” Nair said. His company grows mushrooms in a clean and sterile environment. No compost is used, he said.

“Mushrooms are not well known here in the modern culture,” Nair said. “We now have an opportunity to bring it to the modern world, make it more contemporary and teach our society about the benefits.”

Chris Bailey, vice president at Gourmet Mushrooms in Sebastopol—which sells under the Mycopia brand—noted that “specialty mushrooms are a top trending produce item for the last five years, and not only just at the fresh market, but within the dietary-supplement market.”

Back in the day, he said, many people didn’t know what a shiitake mushroom was. Now, “they’ll tell me something like, ‘My favorite mushroom is maitake,’ or ‘My favorite mushroom is cordyceps.'” These mushrooms “are rising in popularity, from culinary for maitake and the nutraceutical for the cordyceps,” Bailey said. Read More:

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