One of the largest headaches that stands between a mushroom cultivator and their success is contamination.
Contamination - a short overview:
Contamination is inevitable to beginners or advanced cultivators alike. Undesirable microbes devour the substrates that our mushrooms consume, with the strong strains spreading and suffocating the weaker strains. The most common contaminants include Bacillus spp, Trichoderma horazium, and cobweb mold (aka Dactylium Mildew from the Hypomyces genus).
Even with our best intentions in avoiding contamination, bacteria and fungal spores are ubiquitous around us - in the air, on our body, or on hard surfaces in even the best-kept homes.
- A bacterium: ~ 2 μm (microns)
- A fungal spore: 10 μm
- A paper sheet width: 100 μm
How then do we grow our spores of interest when to the naked eyes, all spores are practically the same?
Some of the well-known practices by mycology enthusiasts and hobbyists to combat contaminations include 1) strict sterilization techniques and 2) an enclosed work environment, in the form of either a Still Air Box (SAB) or a Flow Hood.
This article will focus on Still Air Box. We will go over the sterilization techniques in a separate post.
What is a Still Air Box?
The Still Air Box achieves what the Laminar Flow Hood does by creating an enclosed space that shields against the turbulent air inside your room. It establishes an effective buffering zone against outside air, and when combined with sterilization techniques, can achieve sterility for the area that it encloses. You may find many iterations of the Sill Air Box. Modifications are made for different use-cases.
- A subvariant of a Still Air Box is a Glove Box, which is a Still Air Box but with attached gloves. Glove boxes provide a layer of protection between the cultivator and the contents within the box, but impose restrictions on the arm movement.
Regular Still Air Boxes do not have these restrictions, as they require users to provide their own gloves. The ability to switch out gloves can be advantageous - changing gloves between procedures can limit the carry-over of contaminants. Because of this flexibility, Still Air Boxes have been used for field sampling, chemistry experiments, and now, mushroom cultivation. They are functionally light-weight and portable, making them an ideal choice for novice and experienced cultivators alike.
Pro Tip: To further ensure the sterility of the working environment, one can thoroughly wipe down the inside surfaces of the Still Air Box with a paper towel doused with a disinfecting solution. See Sterile Techniques for a recommended recipe. It is recommended to also disinfect all your mushroom supplies before placing them inside the Still Air Box.
- Optional: place a HEPA filter air purifier unit inside of the still air box to scrub the interior environment of airborne contaminants (aka the “scrubbing step”).
Things to consider about your Still Air Box
The Still Air Box is technologically simple. However, there are still important specifications that delineate a useful Still Air Box from the rest.
- Cultivators should take an inventory of the equipment (sterilization, cloning, inoculation etc.) that will need to be within hand reach. The Still Air Box needs to be at least big enough to accommodate all the equipment plus the growing culture, and of course, space for cultivators to carry out your task.
- Many Still Air Box designs opt for two cut-out holes for where the arms would go. However, the open holes are places where non-sterile turbulent air can enter and contaminate your work space. The Bella Bora Still Air Box uses three elastic arm-hole covers that will snuggly contour to the arms. This effectively creates a tight seal to prevent the mixing of air between your still air box and the outside environment.
- Most still air boxes are built out of a plastic bin, where holes are cut into the sides. The problem with these bins is that one can’t easily store the Still Air Box when not in use. The Bella Bora Still Air Box can be broken down and packed away into a carrying case the size of a shoe box.
The Bella Bora Still Air Box
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