In the last three years, the Canadian company has harvested turkey tail with its Chinese partner farms, implementing the first and only large-scale cultivation of the mushroom. In 2021, it produced 8,000 kilos of dried mushrooms, increasing cultivation to 12,000 kilos in 2022 and 30,000 kilos in 2023. Nammex predicts it will be able to scale up production to between 150,000 to 200,000 kilos annually starting this year.
“Nammex is the only large-scale producer to cultivate large quantities of mushrooms while others use wild harvested material to produce their products,” said Skye Chilton, CEO of Nammex. “We’re pleased with how well the cultivation program is scaling.”
Known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is incorporated across supplement categories including immune, cognitive and gut health. Demand for encapsulated products outperforms those in bulk powder form, Nammex said.
Cultivation removes pressure on the ecosystem as this species of mushroom sees rapid growth in demand. The mushrooms are cleaner and more consistent in quality compared to wildcrafted supplies, Chilton said.
“We can lessen some of the demand for the wildcrafted turkey tail, thereby reducing environmental harvesting stress, and at the same time optimize the health benefits with a higher quality mushroom,” he added. “If it's cultivated, it is sustainable.”
The growing, harvesting and processing methods used are compliant with the company’s organic certification. These mushrooms are certified organic and must pass the same requirements.
Mushrooms are cultivated on substrates that come from agricultural and forest by-products that might otherwise be wasted. These so-called wastes are not only turned into healthful mushrooms but ultimately into fertilizer that gives back nutrients and enriches soil. After the mushrooms are harvested, the decomposed wood and sawdust logs used as substrate are sun-dried and then utilized as fuel by local farmers, often as a means to heat the air in the mushroom drying rooms. Any of the substrates that are not suitable for fuel are returned to the earth as fertilizer and to add structure and organic matter to sandy soils.
Chilton explained that harvested lots undergo dual validation of specifications for purity, integrity and potency. First tested in China prior to shipping, they are then verified again using in-house testing and third-party laboratories including Toronto-based Purity IQ for identity and SGS and Eurofins for product integrity before they are released from quarantine and shipped to customers.
Purity-IQ has been testing mushrooms for about two years, working closely with Nammex to build up a robust library to verify all the different species. The company’s NMR technology allows them to not only identify the species but also origin, the plant part (mycelium vs. fruiting body) and the ability to differentiate between extracts.
"Recent testing shows a clean pesticide panel on the cultivated material, and the heavy metals remain well below limits, with no failures in this category for meeting specifications," Chilton said.