BIG Feature: Fogo Fungi - From Mushroom Enthusiasts to Sustainable Tech Innovators 

BIG Feature: Fogo Fungi - From Mushroom Enthusiasts to Sustainable Tech Innovators 

Thursday Feb 29,2024 | IIE News

Fogo Fungi


An aspiring entrepreneur, a German globetrotter, and an SAF Air Warfare Officer. How did these diverse paths converge to form the foundation of Fogo Fungi? Read on to find out. 

How it started 

The company’s founder, Ryan Ong (SMU LKCSB Class of 2019) watched a documentary about how mushrooms were grown and became fascinated by their immense potential as sources of food, medicine, and materials. However, he was perplexed by the lack of quality, freshness, and variety of mushrooms available in the region.  

Through extensive research from volunteering at local vegetable farms and working at an insect farming start-up dedicated to valorising food waste, Ryan discovered several contributing factors to this problem. One is that mushrooms do not ship well due to their short shelf life, thus limiting the available mushroom choices to a few. Additionally, there is a lack of mushroom farms in Singapore. Furthermore, mushroom farmers in Singapore often import their mushroom bags, leading to the issues of untraceable growing processes which hinders the farmers’ ability to control the quality, productivity, and variety of their mushrooms.  

Ryan recognised a significant gap in the industry and in January 2022, he embarked on the journey to develop the necessary agri-tech knowledge, skills, and experience. However, he was still in need of a few like-minded allies.  

He persuaded his longtime friend Jonathan Chen, an SAF Air Warfare Officer and award-winning horticulturist, to leave a prestigious and stable government job to join him. Next was Felix-Constantin Dorner, a German globetrotter Ryan had met during a university exchange programme in Mexico. Felix, then completing his Master’s Programme in Portugal, Lisbon, decided to make a one-way trip across the globe armed with nothing but a backpack, a laptop, and grand ambitions to change the agri foodtech industry. 

Fogo Fungi thus sprouted in 2023 in the confines of Ryan’s three-bedroom house, where he utilised every inch of his home, including the top of the microwave, bathroom, and even the instant noodle storage space in the cabinets, to cultivate mushrooms. The makeshift mushroom facility expanded to the spare bedroom of Jonathan’s house, where various prototypes and iterations of mushroom technology were developed. United by a shared vision and a fervent dream of creating a more sustainable future, the founding pillars of Fogo Fungi were formed. 

rental Fogo Fungi

Photo: Fogo Fungi co-founders with signed Tuas facility tenancy agreement 

Fast forward to today, after persevering through the constrains of limited, low-budget equipment and small, improvised farming setups, Fogo Fungi have successfully secured a 4,000 sq. ft pilot facility in Tuas, Singapore, which officially launched in January 2024. Studies estimate that fresh produce travels over 1,500 miles, before being consumed, and traditional shipping means they travel for an average of two weeks. By operating their mushrooms farms in strategic locations locally, cultivating mushrooms using waste materials from various industries, and adopting packaging made from cardboard and other recyclable materials, Fogo Fungi is able to reduce overall food miles travelled, improve the produce quality, extending product shelf life, all while drastically reducing carbon footprint, food waste, and plastic usage. Customers will also have access to better, fresher, and different mushrooms closer to home. 

Mushrooms are nature’s decomposers, and what Fogo Fungi is doing is recreating nature’s process on an indoor scale using mushrooms to upcycle food waste like spent beer grains, coffee waste, and okara to cultivate gourmet mushrooms. This practice helps Fogo Fungi to further close the loop of the food system and contribute to a circular economy. For every 1kg of waste material used, they can grow at least 1kg of fresh mushrooms. The biological efficiency of mushrooms is 100%-200% depending on species, making them extremely efficient waste-to-value transformers. The team is amazed with the incredible potential and limitless possibilities of mushrooms, yet astonished that they are often under appreciated and under utilised. They can be used in a wide array of culinary applications, as materials, and even offer benefits such as medicinal properties and environmental detoxification.  

Proprietary advanced technology for mushroom cultivation  

Fogo Fungi has two key proprietary technologies that allow them to produce better, fresher, and different gourmet mushrooms while still positively contributing to sustainability, named M Log and M Grow. 

M Log allows the start-up to create artificial logs made using a proprietary recipe that comprises of clean organic waste. It mimics the logs that mushrooms grow on in nature and are formulated to cultivate a wider variety of mushrooms, increasing growth and yield, while maintaining sustainability and bio-efficiency.  

M Grow is a modularly designed controlled environment system that mimics the natural environment of mushrooms. In nature, mushrooms are found on the forest floor where it is damp, and temperatures are cool. These systems are automated with IoT sensors to provide the optimal growing conditions for mushrooms regardless of seasons. Furthermore, these systems are easy to set up and can be placed anywhere, increasing scalability, and opening the possibility of creating sustainable communities around Singapore with them. 

Versus traditional methods, Fogo Fungi’s mushrooms grow three to five times faster with two to three times more yield. This feature is especially important in Singapore, where sustainability efforts are on the rise, and land is scarce. 

Fogo Fungi mushroom kit

Photo: Fogo Fungi's mushroom grow kit

Fogo Fungi has a blog section on their website which serves as a platform for them to post mushroom-related articles, recipes, and interesting facts to disseminate and contextualise the immense benefits of mushrooms. In addition, they offer a DIY mushroom grow kit that lets people grow mushrooms in the comfort of their homes. The grow kit is decorated with information about the benefits and interesting fun facts about mushrooms. This lets people learn more about mushrooms and brings them closer to their food. 

Fogo Fungi aspires to be Southeast Asia’s market leader in specialty mushroom production and mushroom products. By leading in this field and setting an example, they aim to inspire others with their success and pave the way for future generations to take impactful actions. Through their educational efforts, they seek to equip people with the key knowledge needed to make informed decisions regarding their food. With their story, the younger generation can be inspired and assured that farming is a viable career pathway for them.  




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