Urban mushroom farming from a Yarra’s Edge apartment
While the compact nature of apartment living can often attract innovation, it’s not often you would have heard of the practice of mushroom farming in such a setting.
They may have only been Docklanders for a short time, but European couple Hughes Martin and Klodjana Uku have already made a big impact by bringing their shared passion for nature and sustainability to the community.
The pair moved to Docklands from Belgium seven months ago for work, with the Albanian-born Klodjana, who was raised in Italy, employed locally by payment services company Worldline (ANZ Worldline).
While she and the Belgian-born Hughes both have a background working in the financial sector, together they share an interest in food and the environment, with Hughes having recently changed careers from banking to landscape gardening.
And, in their spare time at home in their Yarra’s Edge apartment, they’ve been busy establishing and nurturing what Hughes calls an “urban farm” dedicated to growing fresh mushrooms.
The beginnings of their urban farming initiative, named “Fung’Hughes”, can be traced back to Belgium before they moved to Australia when Hughes began developing a fascination with mushrooms and the methods for growing them.
“I first heard somewhere that you could actually grow mushrooms in dark and humid places, and then I started looking on the internet; YouTube’s algorithm puts me in touch with those nice mycologist channels and then I really got hooked,” Hughes told Docklands News. “So, we wanted to try here on a bigger scale than what we used to do in Belgium.”
And since moving into Docklands, they’ve wasted no time in turning their passion into a business by establishing all the components necessary to grow high-quality oyster mushrooms, from fructification chambers to “growing tents” on their balcony.
Photography by Hanna Komissarova.
Grown out of organic and local substrate using a completely low-tech and low-energy farming process, Hughes said their mission was to change perceptions of farming and share the message of sustainable food production in an urban environment.
“For people who really enjoy eating mushrooms it’s really amazing and it helps the environment afterwards because when you put the substrate that you grow your mushrooms on in garden beds it provides more nutrition for the soil,” he said.
But also when you eat mushrooms there are amazing health benefits. For example, there are mushrooms that are grown specifically for certain illnesses for helping boost immunity.
“We are both foodies as well, and we really like to eat mushrooms. When you really start researching mushrooms you understand how they’re amazing organisms for everything regarding the environment.”
With limited space comes a limited capacity to sell too many mushrooms, but Hughes said with sustainability being at the heart of everything they did, they only sold what they could produce.
And the lucky beneficiaries, according to Hughes, had been their neighbours in Yarra’s Edge to whom they’ve spread the word to by dropping flyers in letterboxes – a service he said had been well received.
“We have in our building a lovely lady that already ordered [mushrooms] four times. I think she just loves them!” he said.
“The people that bought from us really love them. Everybody that has tasted our mushrooms seem to really have liked them.”
While Klodjana’s work commitments mean the couple will soon have to move to Sydney, Hughes said they had connected with the Docklands Community Garden in an effort to ensure their mushroom legacy lived on in Docklands.
By donating their mushroom waste to their garden, Hughes said he hoped other locals might take up on opportunities to connect with the Docklands Community Garden and learn how to grow mushrooms themselves. •
For more information: instagram.com/funghughes/