Mushroom Farming in Kenya
Kenya has developed a mushroom variety suited for warm weather, opening a new revenue stream for Mushroom Farming in Kenya. The button type is also resistant to fungal and bacterial diseases. Scientists at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology – Institute of Biotechnology Research (IBR), have studied soils and found that the warm October – March season is ideal for growing the new variety,agaricus bitorquis. It grows at 25 degrees Celsius above other varieties.
Kenyan farmers have been growing the agaricus bisphorus type, which, is unfriendly to small growers who are unable to regulate temperatures close to the ideal 19 or 20 degrees Celsius. Such conditions have locked Mombasa, Kisumu and even areas around Nairobi out of mushroom farming, which has become popular among people changing their eating habits.
Demand for mushrooms has been growing but there has been a challenge in temperature control. The new release, scientists say, also tastes better than the bisphorus variety. The new variety has a longer shelf life and is recommended for small scale farming.
The economic advantage is that the new mushroom has less diseases, it is sweeter and has a better quality.
Seeds are available at the university and can produce up to 5,000 tonnes monthly. The university is training farmers on growing this new type of mushroom covering areas like production, packaging, preservation, pest and disease control and marketing.
Mushroom Farming in Kenya – Farming Conditions
Good loam soil is spread on the compost after germination of the spawn so a farmer should be ready with this. Loam soil is mostly found in forests as the top soil. With all these in place, a farmer can now say that he/she is ready to start mushroom farming.
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Several things have to be put in place before starting mushroom farming in Kenya. First, you will need a room/structure which will house the mushrooms. The size/architecture of the structure is not of importance as just about any room can serve as a mushroom structure.
A farmer would need to line the inner walls of the room with polythene paper. The roof and ground should also be lined to further increase humidity levels. This is to prevent the loss of moisture to the walls considering mushrooms require an certain moisture level to grow. This mainly applies to wooden and mud structures which are commonly used for mushroom farming in Kenya.
The room should contain shelves on which the mushroom bags will be put. The more the shelves,the higher the planting capacity of the room so a higher roof is recommended for higher yield.
Mushroom Farming in Kenya – Seeds
Now that the structure is in place, another requirement is the actual seed (referred to as spawn). Most of the farmers we contacted use imported spawn with South Africa as the preferred source. However, we came across a young farmer in Eldoret who was constructing a lab with the aim of producing his own spawn to use himself and sell to the public.
The spawn will be planted on compost. Compost is a mixture of wheat straw prepared with several ingredients including gypsum, cotton seed milk, urea among others to form mushroom compost. This prepared using a process of applying the ingredients on the straws and turning it. This will provide the needed nutrients for the mushrooms. A more in-depth description compost preparation shall be provided.
A farmer would then need polythene bags in which the prepared compost will be packed. This will act as the planting sites for the mushrooms. Clear bags are recommended since it makes it easier to spot diseases and insects.
Mushroom Farming in Kenya – Background Information
Mushroom Farming in Kenya is currently valued at KSh 340 million. Large scale producers account for over 95% all over Kenya most of which is button. Shitake, though not common in Kenya, is globally rated second after button. Oyster mushroom production is readily picking up because it is easy to grow, has higher yields and has more nutritional value than button. Due to its lower cost of production and high yielding capacity it presents a good opportunity for small to middle scale farmers.
Mushroom farming in Kenya has a well established private sector investment with large scale commercial farms like Agridutt Ltd, Rift valley mushrooms, online mushrooms, Devani and Kanchan mushrooms. Key exporting companies do not have out growers.
Mushroom Market in Kenya
Kenya produces 500 tons per annum (of which 476 tons being button) against an annual demand of 1200 tons both in hotels and home consumption. Mushroom breeds by utilizing nutrients from the substrate through colonizing the substrate and forms pinheads which then develop into fruit bodies (mushroom). Mushroom breeding requires right type of spawn (mushroom seeds) i.e. correct age and vibrant growing, substrate and right environment for maximum productivity.
Mushroom Growing in Kenya – Spawns
The seeds (spawns) are available in four types of carrier materials namely:
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- Grain spawn,
- Sawdust spawn,
- Plug spawn and
- Liquid spawn.
Mushroom Growing in Kenya – Production
Production varies depending on various factors e.g. economic capacity and climatic conditions. Some of the production methods include:-Trays, logs, Bags, bottles, Shelf-frame (shelve with bags), Wall mat and saw dust blocks.
Bag (neck and tie method) cultivation is commonly used.
Mushroom Market in Kenya – How Profitable is Mushroom Farming In Kenya?
For each kg of mushrooms, a farmer earns between ksh600 and ksh800. The major problem facing people practicing mushroom farming in kenya is marketing. Some farmers have come up with creative ways of adding value to mushrooms such as grinding dried mushrooms and using the powder to make mushroom porridge. This product is fast gaining popularity. Other ways of adding value is mushroom biscuits and other snacks.
Vegetarian hotels, indian restaurants, schools and other institutions are potential markets. Farmers just have to adopt marketing skills to succeed.