Empowering Communities

The Mush Wonderful Time of the Year

April 16, 2019

There seems to be a holiday for about everything these days, including one dedicated to mushrooms. Celebrate this fun(gi)-filled day any time of the year by learning how a Chicago-based startup created a new way to cultivate mushrooms.

The idea sparked when Sojourn Fare Founder Roman Titus came across a TED talk, “Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World.” He began to use grow boxes to cultivate mushrooms and, before he knew it, his apartment transformed into a mini fungi farm.  When Titus wanted to integrate more technology into the product, Justin Smith joined as co-founder.

“Sojourn Fare builds environmental control units that create the right settings for things to grow and thrive in,” said Smith. “Our system was built to help wrangle all of those environmental variables–humidity, temperature, carbon dioxide, and light– and make sure that you get delicious and consistent produce.”

The grow boxes are leading the charge to create food and jobs where both are in short supply – and helping educate students. As part of ComEd’s Solar Spotlight Program, Sojourn Fare created solar-powered kits for students to build their own grow boxes. This innovation helped students learn how they can use STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to empower their communities with resources and tools to address food desserts.


“Seeing the students work through the process of building the unit was amazing! The kits take a fair amount of work to assemble, but everyone did a great job working with them,” said Smith.

What’s next for Sojourn Fare? They’re working to create shipping container-sized units to make their product more scaleable and accessible to other communities.


“The goal there is to have a larger-scale product that could be dropped into a community to start producing upwards of 300 pounds of mushrooms every week or so,” he said. “A farmer looking to augment their crop could easily add this onto their land, or a community organization could start a small mushroom company without having to get an entire farm set up.”