Are you thinking of venturing into the mushroom farming business but have no idea how to start? If so, this post is exactly what you are looking for as it delves into the Mushroom farming practice in Kenya, its dynamics, merits, potential obstacles and possible disadvantages in the Kenyan market.
Let’s dive in…
Mushroom farming may look like a strenuous and tiresome venture to the newbie, but on closer inspection, you will find out that this farming niche is quite attractive to the entrepreneur. Mushrooms are a nutrient-rich, profitable and under-exploited crop.
This edible fungus provides the human body with many minerals (potassium, copper, selenium etc.,) and nutrients ranging from lean protein, antioxidants and essential vitamins. In addition, they are low in calories, fat, and sodium, but rich in dietary fibre and contain some protein, making them a healthy food choice for Kenyans.
The science behind mushrooms;
Mushrooms belong to the kingdom of Fungi, which is separate from plants and animals. They are classified in the phylum Basidiomycota or Ascomycota, depending on their reproductive structures.
Just like any fungi, mushrooms are quite particular in how they source their nutrients. Since most fungi cannot process their food via photosynthesis, they extract their food from rich decaying media organic matter, thus making them saprophytes.
This organic matter, from a commercial perspective, must be prepared under specific guidelines described later on in this post.
👉Edible mushroom varieties present in Kenya include:
- Button Mushroom variety (Agaricus bisporus) – White with a fruity shape and a small stem. It is the most popular variety in Kenya.
- Oyster Mushroom variety (Pleurotus ostreatus) – Grows in an umbrella-like fashion
- Portobello mushroom
- Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
- Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes)
#2. Structural review
The visible part of a mushroom is the fruiting body, also called a mushroom or toadstool. It consists of a cap, which protects the gills, and a stalk (or stipe) that supports the cap. The gills, located on the underside of the cap, bear microscopic structures called basidia that produce spores.
#3. Culinary Uses
Edible mushrooms have been an integral part of various cuisines worldwide. They offer unique flavours, textures, and aromas, enhancing the taste of dishes.
This fungus is versatile, as it can be used in very many dishes and can also be a standalone meal in Kenyan cuisines. With this, the Kenyan market is growing as more high-end restaurants are preparing this for their clients.
How to Cultivate Mushrooms in Kenya
Many edible mushrooms can be cultivated commercially. The cultivation process involves creating a suitable growing medium, often consisting of a mixture of organic materials like straw, sawdust, or compost. Controlled environmental conditions, including temperature, humidity, and light, are maintained to promote mushroom growth.
Let’s break it down…
Capital Required for mushroom farming in Kenya
To start you off, you will need at least Ksh.50,000 which may rise to or more than Ksh.100,000 depending on your budget.
Ecologic requirements for mushroom farming in Kenya
Mushrooms can be grown in any region of Kenya. However, some specifics must be attained:
- Reliable rainfall/water supply (3-8h intervals)
- Stable temperature (100C – 200C)
- Ammonia Content
- Humidity/Moisture Content – 85%
- Low light levels
Structural Requirements for mushroom farming in Kenya
Choose one of the following in this list of housing structures that will be used after outdoor cultivation is completed as described later on in this article:
- Steel structured tubing covered with sheets
- Bamboo is woven matting insulated with polythene sheets
- Grass thatched houses
- Greenhouses covered with insulation or roof vents
- Mud-walled house
Land, preparation & growth
Mushroom farming requires only a small space for growth. You can turn your garage or backyard into a mushroom farming space. Remember that mushrooms do well in dark environments as they do not depend on sunlight.
Preparation, however, will need to be done outdoors, as you will need to create a compost heap that will act as a medium for the spawning of your mushroom spores. Here is the procedure for compost preparation:
- Choose a suitable composting material – e.g., straw, sawdust, wood chips, agricultural waste, and various organic residues. AVOID materials treated with chemicals or contaminated with pathogens.
- Chop or shred the composting material – This increases the surface area and speeds up decomposition.
- Moisture adjustment: Moisture content is crucial for composting. Aim for a moisture level of around 60-70%. If the material is too dry, spray water to moisten it. If it’s too wet, add dry materials like straw or sawdust to absorb excess moisture.
- Form compost piles – Layer the composting material in a pile or container, preferably with adequate aeration. Alternate layers of nitrogen-rich materials (like fresh grass clippings) and carbon-rich materials (like straw) provide a balanced compost mix.
- Regularly turn the compost pile to promote even nutrient distribution, oxygen circulation and even decomposition. This should be done at least once weekly. Monitor temperature and moisture levels to ensure proper composting. The composting process may take several weeks to several months, depending on the materials used and environmental conditions.
- Obtain mushroom spores or spawn – Spores are microscopic reproductive units, while spawn is mycelium (the fungal thread-like structure) grown on a suitable substrate.
- Prepare the growing substrate – Mix the compost with the spawn or spores. The specific ratio and mixing method depends on the mushroom species and the desired cultivation method.
- Fill containers or beds – Place the compost-spawn mixture into containers (like trays, bags, or buckets) more preferably, clear bags. Ensure the substrate is evenly distributed and compacted slightly.
- You will then need to keep the containers or bags in a suitable environment, e.g., a mud-house, for the mushrooms to colonize the substrate. This typically involves maintaining specific temperature, humidity, and light conditions as per the mushroom species’ requirements.
- Fruiting conditions – Once the substrate is fully colonized by the mycelium, adjust the environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, light) to induce fruiting. Different mushroom species have varying requirements for optimal fruiting.
Here is the weekly schedule of how you will manage your mushroom cultivation:
|Week 1||– Add chicken manure|
– Add molasses
– Add bioactive microbes (organic booster)
– Mix in different ratios weekly
– Turn the compost twice
– Open straw and add supplements with water, let sit for 3 days
|Week 2||– Add cotton seeds|
– Add urea
– Add MOP fertilizer (provides ammonia)
|Week 3||– Add agricultural lime to maintain pH|
|Week 4||– Add gypsum to drain excess water from the substrate|
– Sterilize substrate with pesticides or pasteurization
|Week 5||– Purchase seeds|
– Plant and incubate substrate in polythene bags measuring 18x24cm
– Maintain cool temperatures
– Pour water on the floor to lower room temperature
|After 2 weeks||– Mycelium should start to grow |
– Add soil on top of the mycelium and re-cover the bags
|After 2 more weeks||– Open bags to allow for pinning |
– Wait for full growth then harvest
ATTENTION: Irish Potato Farming in Kenya
Harvesting your mushrooms
Monitor the mushrooms as they develop and harvest them at the appropriate stage. Harvesting methods depend on the mushroom variety but generally involve cutting or twisting the mushrooms at the base.
Harvesting generally occurs 3-4 months from planting and crop yields all depend on your ability to implement the guideline above to the letter.
You can harvest up to 30-40 Kg daily after a hectic 2-3 months of cultivating and managing your crop. Again, yields depend on your level of expertise in this kind of farming.
#4. Pests & Diseases
In mushroom farming, several pests and diseases can affect the crop. Here’s a brief list of some common pests and conditions encountered in mushroom cultivation:
- Mushroom flies (Sciarid flies): They lay eggs in the growing medium and their larvae feed on mycelium and mushrooms.
- Mites: Tiny arachnids that can damage the mycelium and mushrooms.
- Snails and slugs: They can feed on the mushrooms and cause physical damage.
- Rats – These are a real menace
- Trichoderma contamination: Trichoderma fungi can overgrow the mushroom mycelium, leading to green mould and poor mushroom yield.
- Wet bubble disease: Caused by the Mycogone perniciosa fungus, it forms slimy bubbles on the mushroom surface.
- Dry bubble disease: Caused by Verticillium fungicola, it causes dry, dark-coloured spots on the mushroom cap.
- Cobweb mould: A fungal infection that results in a cotton-like growth on the substrate, often caused by the pathogen Dactylium spp.
- Bacterial blotch: Bacterial infection that causes dark, slimy patches on the mushroom surface, often caused by Pseudomonas tolaasii.
Marketing and Distribution
Once you harvest, you must look for a customer, client or broker for your farm produce. Market demand is high for this crop and you may run out of supplies. In such a case, you may need a contingency to retain customer satisfaction.
Nevertheless, here are possible places to sell your product:
- Grocers and Supermarkets
- Restaurants and Hotels
- Online Market places
- Cooperative Societies and Wholesale Markets
- Local community markets
Medicinal Properties of Mushrooms
Some edible mushrooms are also known for their medicinal properties. For example, certain species of mushrooms like reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and shiitake (Lentinula edodes) have been traditionally used in Asian medicine for their potential health benefits, including immune system support and antioxidant properties. Scientific research is ongoing to explore their medicinal potential further.
Toxicity and Identification
While many mushrooms are safe to eat, it’s essential to exercise caution as some wild mushrooms can be toxic or even deadly. Proper identification is crucial to avoid consuming poisonous species. If you are interested in foraging for wild mushrooms, it is highly recommended to learn from experienced mycologists or experts to ensure safety.
In conclusion, mushroom farming in Kenya is a labour-intensive deal that when mastered and managed appropriately, has very lucrative profit margins. All you have to do is follow this tutorial, do a little bit more research and implement the strategies laid out here.