In Abu Dhabi, there is the Below Farm in Al Rahba, where a 10-person team grows six varieties of premium mushrooms such as pink oyster, shiitake and lion’s mane. Below Farm is pioneering a new type of sustainable agriculture in the desert that requires little water and no arable land. These mushrooms are on sale at supermarkets such as Spinneys and at online delivery companies such as Kibsons, and will soon be on plates at Emirates Palace.
Liliana Slowinska, co-founder of Below Farm: “We talked to five-star hotels and executive chefs. They were wary of putting such mushrooms on the menu in case next week they wouldn’t be available. But we are here to stay.”
Below Farm was established in 2021. Its first harvest was in May and it now plans to ramp up production using its unique way of growing fungi. The mushrooms grow on special blocks that are made from local waste wood and palm frond cuttings that are mixed with grains such as wheat bran.
This mix is then compressed, packed in bags and sterilized. The mycelium — or mushroom starter culture — is then added. Mycelium is essentially the root system of mushrooms and each variety has a different one.