In Summary
  • Mushroom is gradually replacing meat in most menus in the country.
  • They are low in calories and fat, high in fibre and contains high amounts of fibre.
  • Interestingly some mushroom varieties in Switzerland can be eaten raw just like apples.

The white one-storied building could have passed for any other house. Yet on entering the compound, a beehive of activity confronts you as a man in his 20s rapidly doles out instructions.

The employees, numbering more than 20, are arranging bags of spawn in the various rooms, harvesting, sterilising the growing areas, packaging and loading the final produce onto trucks for distribution.

Selling a tonne of mushrooms to retailers every day, Fine Funghi, as the enterprise is called, is one of the largest mushroom farms, at Tannerbergstrasse, Gossau on the outskirts of Zurich city, Switzerland.

The farm is co-owned by two farmers – Herr Romanens and Michael Manalle – the man we found supervising workers on an afternoon during our visit recently.

I was in Switzerland with eight other University of Nairobi students on an agricultural research tour.

Fine Funghi cultivates a wide variety of mushrooms that include Shiitake, King Oyster, Pleurotus and Button.

The farm packages its mushrooms in bags branded with the different retailers’ names and not their own company.

This is a business tactic we would later learn helps the company to remain in good terms with the biggest retailers because there is a lot of competition in the mushroom industry.

Until recently, mushrooms were not a big deal on Kenyans’ dining tables. They had always been the stuff the children stumble on and pluck from the soft ground during play.

They would later bring them home to make themselves a juicy snack – roasted or fried.

FEW FARMS CULTIVATING IN LARGE SCALE

Nonetheless, a few farms have started to cultivate it in large scale but it has not grown so popular as to attract a vibrant business and a raging market of consumers.

Much of the mushroom cultivation that is also going on in Kenya is done inorganically with a lot of chemicals involved in the whole process.

In Switzerland, however, farmers have taken mushroom cultivation to higher commercial and dietary scales. The crop is mainly cultivated organically.

Fine Funghi sits on less than an acre and it has joined Bio Suisse, a federation of Swiss organic farmers with over 6,000 members that works to bring people, animals and nature in balance.

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