There is growing interest in developing commercial cultivation of mushrooms in Kenya. According to NAFIS Mushroom production 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 industry 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.
What are mushrooms?
Cultivated mushrooms are edible fungi that grow on decaying organic matter, known as a substrate. Unlike vegetables they do not rely on sunlight to grow. Mushrooms start as very small spawns. The spawns will grow in the substrate to produce a fine white fibrous structure called mycelium. From the mycelium the mushroom fruit is produced. This is the part that is harvested. Mushrooms have a high nutritional value and are high in protein. They are also a good source of vitamins (B1, B2, B12 and C), essential amino acids, and carbohydrates but are low in fat and fibre and contain no starch. When fresh they have a very high water content of around 90%. Minerals present include phosphorus, potassium, iron and copper. Mushrooms grow in bursts known as flushes approximately every 7 to 10 days for a few weeks with yields falling over time. The first three flushes yield more than 70% of the total. The growing time will be dependent on type of mushroom and the growing conditions.
Types of Mushrooms
There are several types of mushrooms. However; it is found that there are those that are edible and non-edible ones.
Our minds will now zero down to the edible ones which include:-
- Button -Agaricus
- Oyster -Pleurotous
- Shiitake -Lentinula Edodes
- Straw -Volvallella volvacea
- Chinese mushroom – Ganoderma
Mushrooms are grown utilizing agricultural wastes, e.g. cereal straws, maize stocks, bean stock, Cotton husks, maize cobs, coffee husks, coffee pulp, paper waste, papyrus, water hyacinth, banana fronds etc.
Where to grow your mushrooms
Mushrooms should be cultivated indoors so that the growing conditions can be maintained at their most suitable for the mushrooms. Temperature, humidity, uniform ventilation, carbon dioxide and substrate moisture levels can be controlled to get the best results while unwanted contaminants, moulds and sunlight can be kept away from the crop. Any small room with ventilation and a cement floor can be used. It should be possible to close off the room to the outside by shutting ventilation and doors. The interior should be arranged so that it is easy to carry out complete cleaning at the end of each cropping cycle. The mushroom house should be well insulated to maintain a steady temperature. Corrugated metal roofing is not suitable, but concrete or clay tiles would be. Insulating materials such as fibre glass wool or expanded polystyrene can be used. Small rooms can be made from wooden poles with stretched sacking covering the frame. The sacking can be covered with a wet cement and sand mixture that will produce a hard protective skin.
According to Smart Harvest, 1 kg of spawn is Ksh 600. This is enough for 40 Bags of 2kg-2.5 kg each.
Mushrooms can be sold in supermarkets, hotels and groceries in Kenya. They can be preserved by drying in the sun and sold as that, considering mushrooms are very perishable.
Benefits from Mushrooms
- Protein -Protein content of dry weight is between 19% and 35%
- Fat– Low rate of fat content between 1-8%.
- Vitamins and minerals – Mushrooms are a good source of vitamins such as thiamine (Vitamin B).Riboflavin (vitamin B2), miacine, bio tine and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), folic acid. They also contain significant amounts of phosphorus, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and Zinc.
- Heart and coronary diseases- Lower fungi have yielded important medicines like penicillin and other antibiotics from penicillium (a common contaminant in mushroom cultivation). Mushrooms contain substances which lower the cholesterol level in serum and liver which makes it good for those suffering from heart diseases.
- Cancer – Many mushrooms contain substances, which suppress the growth rate of tumours.
- Diabetes – Research in animals indicates that mushrooms like pleorotus ostreatus (Oyster), cord caps, saneness, lentinula edodes and grifola frondosa have a positive effect on diabetes.
- Protection against free radicals and infection– Free radicals can damage body cells and induce cancers. Free radicals are the result of specific transformation process. Many bio active compounds protect the body against these radicals. These substances are often called anti oxidants and are present in many mushrooms. In other words, the body immunity is boosted. This will be a relief to those suffering from HIV/AIDS