Mushroom proteins and medicinal compounds from waste

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Mark Harrison
Senior Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Professor Robert Speight
Professor (Microbial Biotechnology)
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Dr James Strong
Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Australia generates thousands of tonnes of organic waste residues related to agriculture (e.g. sugar and cotton industries). These are generally unsuitable as bacterial growth substrates, but can be utilised by fungi. Fungi have developed an array of enzymes that allow them to access cellular building blocks and energy stored in recalcitrant carbon or ligno-cellulosic/hemi-cellulosic waste material.

The aim of this project is to harness the fungi’s ability to access this carbon and generate fungal biomass (mycelia), fruiting bodies (mushrooms) and bioactive metabolites. Various material will be assessed to generate fungal biomass that contains protein (a potential feed source) as well as medicinal compounds (e.g. triterpenoids, hericinone) in the mushrooms.

The work will cover four major aspects.

  • Generating a healthy active spawn (a fungal inoculum) that is used as seed material.
  • Adding this spawn to various agricultural residues and then using process and growth conditions to enhance fungal colonisation.
  • Using the colonised material to generate fruiting bodies by altering the growth conditions.
  • Extracting and quantifying metabolites in the mycelia and the fruiting bodies (e.g. protein content, nutritional lipids and compounds of medicinal interest.

Research activities

  • We will look at creating spawn (a fungal inoculum) using different materials such as rice and barley.
  • This will be added to various agricultural residues and the process enhanced to maximise fungal colonisation.
  • The colonised material will be assessed for fruiting body formation i.e. growing mushrooms).
  • The fruiting bodies and the colonized substrate will be extracted and assessed for nutritional lipids.


  • Understanding which spawn allows best colonisation for a variety of residues.
  • Mass balance/quantifying mushroom production relative to substrate inputs.
  • Comparison of nutritional and medicinal compounds in fruiting bodies and mycelia.

Skills and experience

The following would be useful, but not essential if you think you can learn them relatively quickly:

  • Laboratory skills
  • Aseptic technique
  • Solvent extraction
  • GC/HPLC understanding



Contact James Strong at for more information.