By George Munene
Affluent Farmers, a Njiru-based agriculture start-up is training farmers and buying back their mushrooms as well as giving them access to mushroom markets.
Mushroom farming has risen in popularity because of its low starting up costs and requiring very little space to setup, the fungi is also a high-value crop with a kilo fetching up to Sh800.
“The company’s birth a year ago was driven by the constant question we would get after sharing information on our journey in mushroom farming; mushrooms are lucrative but delicate crops and farmers often lack the right information on their growing and market linkages,” explains Ephantus Kibe, Affluent’s co-founder.
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“We offer farmers standardised two days training at a cost of Sh3000. This entails giving them all the theoretical material they need and taking them through its growing process on our urban farm at Mwiki, Kasarani,” says Kibe. “We also follow up with our trained farmers by buying back their mushrooms as well as sourcing for and giving them access to markets and middlemen given our long-established contacts in the mushroom trade,” he adds.
Mushrooms are sold in punnets; 250 gram containers that fetch between Sh100 and Sh200 each depending on variety and seasonality which drives demand. A two kilogram polythene bag can produce 600 grams of mushroom.
The main varieties grown in Kenya are the oyster and button mushroom. Button mushrooms which are white or brown and are named for their button-shaped fruiting body have a higher demand amongst consumers for their familiarity with them and are perceived to have a better taste.
“Like with most agricultural sectors, we have also been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic; most spawn/ seed used to grow mushrooms is sourced from imports from South Africa which have been disrupted by the cessation of cross-border travel. This led to a spike in prices that has been counterweighed by the closure of hotels which make up our main markets,” Kibe says.
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For mushrooms, all a farmer needs is a grow house, spawn/seeds, substrate(mushroom feed)—this can be sawdust, straw, bean husks or any other agricultural waste that can form a bed mushrooms can feed on. One tone of sawdust can be used to feed 500 bags 2kg growing bags. The temperature inside the house needs to be kept between 18-25 °C and at humidity levels of 75 to 90%. This makes stone or mud houses ideal for growing mushrooms as, unlike iron sheet houses both the humidity and temperature within them are easily regulated.
Other factors to consider are maintenance of high hygiene levels and having access to water that is used to lower temperatures in the grow house.
Oyster mushrooms grow in one and a half months while buttons take two to two and a half months to harvest.
Affluent Farmers: 0756832065