By JEFF ANTHONY
The best Agribusiness to invest in as a young farmer or a seasoned investor is Mushroom Production – and I am writing from experience.
The fungi crop has numerous nutritional and medicinal benefits, the demand for mushrooms is huge unexplored and unexploited, and the market offers unprecedented access to wealth and financial freedom. The Capital and daily expenditure are also affordable compared to other conventional crops.
Mushrooms contain more protein than fish or chicken, all Vitamins except A and D. Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus Zinc and Iron. They also contain a number of medicinal benefits, including lowering high blood pressure/hypertension, strengthening of weak bones, teeth and nails due to their high content in calcium. Mushrooms also heal impotency, improve cerebral development in children between the ages of 0 and 3, boost immunity, detoxify the body therefore preventing terminal diseases like colon cancer and improve fertility.
Nevertheless, it is the financial benefits of growing mushrooms that are breathtaking. For instance, a quarter kilo of Oyster Mushrooms cost Ksh200. A kilo is Ksh800. In a small room of 5 meters by 5 meters, a small scale farmer can easily harvest a produce of 10 kilos of mushrooms weekly, which adds up to Ksh8,000 and Ksh32,000 monthly/
In the same house of 5 by 5 meters, production can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled. Therefore bringing in an income of Ksh64,000, Ksh96,000 and Ksh128,000 respectively. Unbeknownst to many, mushrooms continuously sprout for a period of 3 months from the time the harvesting begins.
The first 2 months are however the most productive. Unlike conventional crops, mushrooms are planted in fresh pasteurized organic substances known as substrate. These can be one or a combination of the following, Sugar Cane baggasse, Maize Stovers cut in minute pieces, Wheat Straw, Ground Nut Shells, crushed Maize cobs, Rice Husks and Molasses.
The pasteurization of these substances is carried out through boiling of steaming the substrate. Pasteurization eliminates all harmful organisms that deter mushroom production, while maintaining the nutritional content. After the substrate cools down, it is then mixed with mushroom seed called Spawn in a process called inoculation.
The planted substrate is then packed in several transparent polythene bags after holes are created in them. The polythene bags are then hung up in the mushroom house. A month and a half after the planting process, mushrooms begin sprouting.
A question that is often on most lips is market. Traditionally, hotels offer a simple market that constantly demand mushrooms. For a first time supplier, hotels often demand packaged samples of the product. After the fist impression, they then require the signing of an agreement that bounds the client to reliably supply them with their required amount of mushrooms.
The number of hotels that demand mushrooms are staggering, 800 beach hotels along the coast of Kenya, hotels in all the major cities and towns. Several Pizza outlets around the country and several restaurants and hospitals.
Then there are the unlimited individual customers in the social media that offer a consistent and reliable clientele. The beauty of the social media is simple, a supplier can repeatedly post pictures of the packaged mushroom product on the most popular farmers groups in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and What’s app. Together with the Nutritional and Medicinal benefits and the contacts.
The interested customers then call directly to make their orders and send money through mobile money transfer to the phone with the shipment fee as well. The produce is then sent via the most suitable courier preferred. Some of the most popular farmers groups in Kenya include Farming Kenya, Digital Farmers Kenya, Mkulima Market, Mkulima Young, and Digital Farmers Kenya. The social media process also helps farmers negate the middlemen.
Jeff Anthony, a former Big Brother contestant, runs the Mount Pleasant Mushroom Consultants where he farms mushrooms.