What’s a Clean Air Flowhood?

What’s a Clean Air Flowhood?

Probably you observed that a piece of bread wrapped in a container  and left at room temp in the middle of summer for several days gets moldy. Usually we may see one or several mold types (green, bluish-green or black molds). This means that mold spores landed on it and in presence of moisture, oxygen and heat they started to consume the nutritious bread. This tells us that in a particular habitat there’s competition between organisms for food and resources. But what would happen if we would offer this piece of bread to one organism? In this case we wouldn’t have competition. And because we humans often like to play God  we can twist things up and sterilize the bread then we transfer it into an environment –FREE of microorganisms. This environment is ensured by a flow hood equipped with micron filters able to filter micro-organisms living the air sterile. Here we inoculate it with the desired fungus [e.g., oyster mushrooms, shiitakes, buttons, etc] then we transfer the jar to a grow room for incubation.

Now, manipulating the sterilized bread and transferring the fungus onto it is a challenge because it’s not easy to avoid any possible competitors to land on that piece of bread in the surrounding non-clean air. I just gave you an example but in reality we grow the fungus on grain, sawdust, wood-chips, or synthetic materials. If we would use bread instead we would lower the spawn making success rate because sugars are freely exposed to any competitor organism; however, in order to avoid this we will use sugars closed into ‘capsules’ –simply called grain (wheat, oats, barley, sorghum, maize, rice, etc).

A Flow Hood it’s a box free of microorganisms –provides a sterile environment and allows you to perform fungus or bacterial tissue transfers. It has a wide application espeacially in microbiology.

In mycology this box is used mostly for making media, and cloning mushroom mycelia. For you to understand how powerful the cloning concept is, I will briefly explain how it works: you can actually clone a product in infinite samples with very little investment. Some huge corporate companies are using the exact same principle with great success making millions $/year [see Sylvan.com or Amycel.com -these are companies that produce mushroom spawn for mushroom growers]. This is also a very important tool that every serious mushroom growers has at his farm so they can produce spawn with it and inoculate substrates in the mushroom growing process. It is also widely used by mushroom enthusiasts willing to experiment with fungus mycelium.

The problem

Although this magic box is widely used in mycology and other industrial fields mainly it has two disadvantages:

  • Can be expensive – the cost of such a unit starts from $500 to $4500 or more (shipping not incuded)
  • It’s a health risk –it’s equipped with high efficiency particulate air filters capable to filter the air at a rate of 99.97%. However, these filters are made out of fiberglass which represents a risk factor for all of those working with these units. Why? Because they may release fiberglass particles.

The solution

You build it and customize it how you wish and you’ll cut costs, and avoid possible health complications. I built 4 flowhoods so far and I’m very glad I did that. With some guidance you can also build your own fiberglass-Free flowhood. You need to know how to build one the right way otherwhise you might run into contamination issues due to poor fan performance, filter type, or no fan-filter match.

Without a flowhood you won’t be able to make a quality spawn. Spawn can actually be made without a flowhood but you don’t really want to get into that 🙂 As a mushroom grower you will use it to grow the mushrooms that need additional nutrinet supplementation such as various types of bran (used to increase overal yield). These supplements when applied without propper disinfection will spoil all your substate and you won’t be able to grow mushrooms like shiitake, lions’mane, chestnut mushrooms, shimenji, nameko, enoki, mitake, and so forth. You could try to grow these in the absence of a flowhood but it’s going to be tricky. So, I hope you understand how valuable is a device like this fr a mushroom enthusiast.

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