Some of the packed Mushroom Blue startup products. The company is looking for farmers to grow more mushrooms to bridge their shortage gap. Photo courtesy.
A Kenyan startup which is branding and supplying mushroom products, including pizza is looking for mushroom out-growers to grow the fungus in a bid to meet the biting shortage in the sector.
According to the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS), Kenya produces only 500 tonnes of mushroom per year against a consumption of 1200 tonnes hence a deficit of 700tonnes annually.
Mushroom Blue is organising training free workshops for local small scale mushroom farmers in the country, insulating them from market bullies who have the capacity to supply the rich high end market.
Large scale producers account for 95 per cent of the country’s total mushroom.
A part from offering a ready accessible market for smallholder farmers, the company is offering them the elusive production knowledge, enabling them to increase their yields and hygienically handle mushroom, hence earning more from the venture, socially and economically transforming lives of those farmers.
Founded in 2012 by three University of Nairobi graduates Ngethe Mbachia, Nyawira Gitaka and Gregory Limbe, the company started its operations by buying mushroom from farmers around Nairobi and Kiambu before they also started producing their own mushroom by using coffee husks as substrates.
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Offering market and training for smallholder farmers
According to the company’s Chief Executive Officer Ngethe Mbachia, they noticed that most large scale mushroom producers do value addition to their yields, package them and have means to hygienically store mushroom products, hence appealing to high end consumers.
This, according to Mbachia lock out many smallholder farmers who are forced to sell their produce at a through away price to middlemen, incurring huge loses. He added that mushroom require high maintenance level during production an aspect that overwhelm smallholder farmers resulting into huge post-harvest losses.
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Procedure for registering with Mushroom Blue
‘’We brand the produce and redistribute it to the market we have. The farmers’ network guarantees us mushrooms throughout the year as we have various farmers and even referrals from existing farmers and institutions’’, said Ngethe Mbachia, the Chief Executive Officer.
Mushroom Blue visits a farmer few weeks before harvesting to verify the quality and quantity. The farmer then fill a contractual form which details about the type of mushroom he grows, quantity, name and banking details as all payments are done through banks.
After the first delivery, the farmer is incorporated into the company’s network which guarantees him free training and future delivery. Distance farmers are allowed to send samples of their mushrooms or high resolution photos of their yields.
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Increased operations to the Coast region
The company recently expanded its services to the Coast region where it is also buying mushroom from farmers, brand and distribute to local supermarkets, groceries and restaurants. The company holds prospects of covering the whole country by the end of this year before expanding to cover other parts of East Africa.
Although there is a huge market demand for mushroom in Kenya, most smallholder farmers lack means to penetrate due to perishability nature of the fungi. READ ALSO: Huge global demand for mushroom
According to the National Farmers Information System (NAFIS), Kenya produces only 500 tonnes of mushroom per year against a consumption of 1200 tonnes hence a deficit of 700tonnes annually.