Buried underneath the hillside, alongside Mt Gibraltar between Mittagong and Bowral in the New South Wales Southern Highlands, lies a disused railway tunnel. This single track tunnel was built in 1866 and used up until 1919 when a new double track tunnel was built alongside it to become the new railway link between Sydney and the nation’s capital, Canberra. The single railway tunnel remained unused until in the 1950’s it became one of the first cultivated mushroom farms in Australia.
In 1987, Dr Noel Arrold, a microbiologist took over the tunnel and proceeded to develop new mushroom varieties for the Australian market. The first variety grown was the Swiss Brown mushroom, followed but the exotic Asian varieties – Shiitake, Oyster, Shimejii and Wood Ear. Exotic mushrooms thrive in the cool, damp and dimly lit environment of the tunnel which resembles the conditions that occur in the mountainous forests of China, Japan and Korea where these mushrooms occur naturally. Their function in the forests is to degrade dead trees converting them into organic matter and enriching the soil of the forests.
In recent times, new methods of cultivations of Enoki, coloured Oysters, Chestnut and King Brown mushrooms have been developed which require more specialised environmental controls so these mushrooms are grown in climate controlled cropping rooms.
For over twenty years Li-Sun Mushrooms has been at the forefront in the development of the exotic mushroom industry in Australia.