The ironic thing about writing a story about mushrooms is that I am allergic. I loved mushrooms, before one Christmas when they betrayed me. Mushrooms however have not betrayed Robbie Gianadda. Robbie grows mushrooms in a basement under a large building on Mason street, where he has been the owner of Flat #12 Mushrooms for 2 years. Walking by you’d pass it if you did not have Robbie with you, since there are no signs indicating that Flat #12 is located there.
Once in the cellar, there are long plastic bags of straw, stacked like firewood, and some with mushrooms growing out of them – it’s an impressive sight to see.
Every once in awhile you meet someone so passionate about what they are doing that you can truly call them an expert. Robbie is one of those people. I knew nothing about growing mushrooms before meeting Robbie. I knew they grew in the forest on dead logs, but other than that I had no idea where to begin. However, after spending two hours with Robbie I feel as though I could give step by step instructions on how to grow mushrooms.
At this point Robbie is growing oyster, shiitake, and lion’s mane mushrooms. Since it’s the winter and conditions are not the best for growing, it takes a month for the mushroom to start growing instead of the usual two weeks. The amount of mushrooms that are produced is lower as well, at about 5 pounds a week. At the same point, business is so good that Robbie is looking to expand the amount of racks, and therefore will have more room to produce more mushrooms, and meet the rising demand.
Robbie has a unique business model. Everything he does is cyclical – his goal is to have a business that has a neutral carbon footprint. Each mushroom is grown from a bag of straw, and Robbie has never thrown one bag out. Even after the growing cycle is complete and the bags are no longer producing mushrooms he leaves them in his building, knowing that they can be used in other ways. Robbie gives them to local farms to use in compost or to use as as field barriers to prevent run off from affecting crops. He also knows that giving back to the community is important and makes it a big part of his business model.
To that end, Robbie wants to start exchanging labor for access to mushrooms, therefore having a symbiotic relationship with any worker he brings on.
Another goal for Flat #12 Mushrooms is to put solar panels on the roof so they can bring in the amount of energy that they use to grow the mushrooms.
Robbie is also looking into cleaning up the dirt around Niagara Street where his business is located. Since it is an industrial area, the soil and dirt has been contaminated, a traditional cleanup method is to remove all of the most heavily contaminated soil, and then refill it will new soil brought in from somewhere else. This method is only about 70% effective, Robbie wants to use mycelium, which is the the vegetative part of a fungus, to filter the dirt. Studies have been done that show mycelium can be used to filter out toxins from soil and improve the nutrients in those same soils. Robbie is hoping to use his knowledge of mycelium to improve the soil in that area and hopefully make it more conducive for local farmers and community gardens.
The next time that you’re at a local restaurant, and you see Flat #12 Mushrooms on the menu, be sure to place an order. We are very lucky to have such an unusual business in our midst. These are the types of businesses that contribute so much to our economic landscape. Flat #12 Mushrooms is an incredible food producer that helps to minimize the carbon footprint of foods that are typically trucked into Buffalo. The mushrooms are super fresh, because they are grown locally. The reuse of an old warehouse is also good to see. And claiming such a diverse business is a big score for this city. Robbie and his passion for growing mushrooms is an overall win for Buffalo’s culinary landscape.
Flat #12 Mushrooms | 36 Mason Street | Buffalo, New York | (716) 903-5098 | Facebook
Following are a couple of images from Flat #12 Mushrooms on Facebook