A former policeman who left the force to become a mushroom farmer loves the switch so much he's helping others set up their own fungi farms.
Thomas Brain was in the Air Force for seven years and then spent five years in the police force before the complete career flip to mushroom growing.
He now grows unusual varieties of mushrooms for markets, sells mushroom spawn, substrates and cultures through his website Oak and Spore and has a YouTube channel teaching grow methods.
The Christchurch man has a loyal following in New Zealand and the UK and has more than 2000 views a day for his off-beat tutorials.
"I initially wanted to open a truffle farm but the risks were too high and the set up too long so I thought mushrooms were the next best thing," Brain said.
"I love figuring out processes and growing things so mushroom farming was the perfect option."
Brain set up his business last year and now grows upward of 50kg of mushrooms a week, including the NZ native mushroom, from a specialist shed on his 1000sq m property in Christchurch.
He sells his mushrooms at the Lyttelton Market and has the ability to produce more but splits his time between his YouTube channel and looking after sales on his website.
When Covid-19 hit and people started losing jobs Brain said he was inundated with emails from people - in New Zealand and overseas - requesting help in setting up their own mushroom farms.
The passionate farmer now wants to see small scale mushroom farms all over New Zealand - and he reckons it's possible.
"There seems to be a real shift towards a focus on locally produced food which is great to see," Brain said.
"Why purchase a piece of produce grown on a 200ha farm 500km away when you can get a better piece of produce from a passionate farmer grown on 1 acre, within your city?"
Over lockdown, Brain noticed a huge spike in the views on his YouTube channel and also people enquiring about mushroom farming on the website.
"Because of Covid people are thinking of other ways to make money and small scale mushroom farming is a real option."
The set up costs were relatively low, Brain said, and mushrooms grow quickly once set up with the right levels of heat, humidity and light.
Brain was constantly looking at ways to improve his facility and was currently looking at automation and methods of energy storage so he could become as efficient as possible.
Mushrooms produce Co2 so Brain has started growing microgreens alongside the mushrooms to absorb the gas.
"It's one way of making use of that Co2 and also microgreens are an amazing nutritional source so why not?"