So have a guess - what do you think are the world's most profitable crops to grow?
Whether you’re a seasoned farmer, a market gardener or a keen hobby grower looking to sell some produce as a sideline, it's worth knowing which crops are most valuable.
But it's not an easy question to answer.
It depends on so many factors like:
This list could go on and on.
If you consult the internet, you'll come up with all sorts of ideas.
I have, and now find myself considering:
A strange list I know but sounds interesting, right?
I’m bound to find someone to use my lavender to make some essential oil?!
Bonsai trees are cool - a great gift surely?
Wasabi is enormously popular, and the Ethiopian grain called teff is rumoured to be the next super grain!
But I was keen to see how these stack up in terms of $ value.
It's hard to find exact data on this kind of thing, but I did find this cool infographic.
It's based on UN data, and it shows the most lucrative crops to grow in $value per km2 (word of caution here: not all of them are legal!).
Pretty clear (and no great suprise!) that growing drugs is more profitable than growing food. You can read a bit about how they arrived at these figures here.
According to this data, tomatoes are the most profitable legal food crop - bringing in around $1.4million per km2.
I was amazed to see that mushrooms weren't included in this UN study.
Perhaps it's because they're not grown in fields or in km2 sized areas.
That's because you don't need so much space to grow the equivalent weight or value as most crops.
Since I’ve been growing mushrooms for some time now I thought I’d add my findings to this to see how it compares based on our experience of running an Urban Mushroom Farm.
In the picture below you can see our Urban Mushroom Farm in Exeter. We turned an unused office space into a compact food production space.
The thing is - Mushrooms really are productive!
That fruiting room you see measures 24.5 m2 (263 ft2) and we can easily harvest 50 kg of Oyster/Shiitake mushrooms each week from it.
Let's include the other spaces you need (incubation, substrate mixing, materials storage) and put the footprint at 75 m2.
That totals 2,600 kg of mushrooms / year in just 75m2.
And how much would that be worth?
Based on selling them at $7/ lb ($16.46/ kg), the going rate for Oyster mushrooms in the US.
So how does that compare with tomatoes?
If we scale the info from the chart back to $/m2 tomatoes would yield only $1.42 per m2 per year.
So if we compare mushrooms with tomatoes, it's easy to see which is more profitable:
Is this like with like?
Not really as it would be a lot easier, and cheaper to plant a km2 field full of tomatoes than mushrooms!
Mushrooms required more of a controlled environment which involves higher set up and overhead costs.
There are many good crops for small farms.
Trying to decide which is the most profitable crop for your situation depends on many factors.
However, if you are looking for profitable crops for your small farm or food business then I urge you to consider growing mushrooms.
There are a high value crop and ideal for small scale growing.
This is due to:
When it comes to growing a cash crop on a small scale - for your CSA, market garden or as a source of additional income, mushrooms should be at the top of the list.
And one of the best things?
You don’t need a lot of land - a garage, basement, unused building, shipping container or a shed can do the trick.
If you're interested to learn more check out our article on How To Set Up A Low Tech Mushroom Farm.
You can also join our free email series & take a tour around our small scale mushroom farm by signing up below: