Mushroom farming may seem like an arduous and tiresome venture, but if you look closely there is something quite attractive about it. According to official statistics from the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS), Kenya produces 500 tonnes of mushrooms per year against a demand of 1200 tonnes.
This therefore means buyers have to import from elsewhere as local farmers cannot sustain the demand – and herein lies a lucrative business opportunity for you to invest in.
*Mushroom Farming in Kenya*
Mushrooms can grow in almost every part of our country provided there is shelter, reliable water supply and stable temperature in the range of 15 to 30 degrees.
*Step 1: Getting Started*
Of course, you need some land to plant your mushroom crop. A 1/8 th acre piece of land would be adequate to set up a large farm that can produce as much as 2 tonnes of mushrooms after every 2 months (using shelf-frame method).
*Step 2: Build a Simple House*
Once you have secured a good piece of land, you will need to build a simple mud-house and a few wooden shelves to utilize the vertical space available. Your local carpenter can help you with this and you can improvise on locally available materials to save on construction cost. (Note: Make sure the house is well aerated to allow proper circulation of air).
*Step 3: Look for the substrate*
The first and most important supply you will need is the substrate. Substrate is basically the substance on which mushrooms grow. This can be forest soil, wheat straw, bean straw, millet straw or even rice straw. Make sure this is sterilized as the slightest bacterial infection can ruin your entire farm. A bale of wheat straw costs Ksh.200 and you will need about 20 bales.
*Step 4: Invest In Nylon Bags*
You will need small bags to prepare the seedlings and also big bags for the final planting. Small plastic bags like the ones shopkeepers use to package 2KG sugar normally cost about Ksh.100 for 200 pieces. Bigger bags can cost as much as Ksh.15 per piece and you will require about 1,000 of them in a 1/8 th acre farm.
*Step 5: Invest In Good Hygiene*
As you will discover through farm training courses, good hygiene is important in a mushroom farm. You will therefore need to buy things like hand gloves, methylated spirit and cotton wool. A box full of gloves costs less than Ksh.1,000 – same for methylated spirit and cotton wool. Other additional supplies that may be needed include drinking straws (Ksh.1,000) and a knapsack sprayer (Ksh.5,000).
*Step 6: Now Get The Seeds*
Finally you will require some mushroom seedlings (also known as spawns). The most popular (and easy to market) spawns are called button spawns. You can buy these from KARI or JKUAT. A Kilogram of button spawns costs Ksh.1,000. 5 Kilograms will be enough to get you started. Other varieties of mushrooms you can plant including: shiitake and oyster.
(1) Keep the growing environment clean and sterile always
(2) It’s advisable to experiment with a small farm before venturing into a big farm
(3) Consult an agriculture extension officer in your area for further advice
(4) Seek mentorship from farmers who are already doing this to understand what challenges they face
(5) Explore your market options in advance to avoid last minute surprises and disappointments
(1) Don’t take shortcuts, mushrooms are very delicate crops and you can lose your entire investment if you don’t follow professional advice in handling them
(2) Don’t buy seeds (spawns) from cheaper sources, always buy from reputable sellers e.g. JKUAT
(3) Don’t forget that cleanliness is at the center of your farm’s productivity (again, and again)
(4) Don’t be in a rush, take your time, like in any other business mushrooms take time to establish
(5) Don’t stop learning, keep researching and keep enquiring to learn the best practices
*How Much To Invest*
A 1/8 th farm will require Ksh.230,000 to establish from scratch. However, once the farm-house is constructed and the basic supplies are bought then the cost of operating subsequent farming seasons will drop to about Ksh.150,000.
*How Much To Expect*
Button mushrooms take less than 14 weeks (2 months) to mature and a 1/8 th acre farm with 1,000 bags platforms can produce as much as 2 tonnes of produce. Each Kilogram goes for an average price of Ksh.600 and this can translate to as much as Ksh 1.2 Million in sales revenue.
Mushroom farming, although quite cumbersome and labour intensive, is actually very profitable. All you need to do is to put some effort in learning the best practices and combine that with the brilliant business strategies I teach you in our Whatsapp Business Ideas Group to launch the next big brand in the country.
*Written By*: Justine Nyachieo
Business Man & Mentor