- Before entering mushroom structure, wash hands and limit the number of people going into it.
- Mushroom production has four stages namely pasteurisation, planting, incubation and harvesting. Pasteurisation involves the elimination of harmful organisms that prohibit mycelium (the white substance that produces mushrooms) from growing
- The plant is harvested several times throughout its lifetime. The first harvesting happens after 15-20 days of soil casing and 35 days after spawning.
- When fungi attacks the oyster mushroom, it is advisable to quarantine the infected sack so that the infection does not affect the plants further.
Some 5km from Kisumu town in Konya village sits a lucrative mushroom production enterprise run by Jeff Anthony, a former Big Brother contestant.
The bad roads notwithstanding, we arrive at his mushroom farm hosted in a structure measuring 5m by 6m, which he runs under the business name Mount Pleasant Mushroom Consultants.
Inside the house, Anthony walks from one side to the next inspecting the sprouted oyster mushroom.
“I have been in mushroom production for close to a decade. It is profitable business with a lot of potential if one does value addition,” he says.
Over the years, Anthony has learnt the art of planting the mushroom seeds on substrate, which is a mixture of sugarcane bagasse, molasses, beans straws and lime.
The ingredients are mixed, sprayed with water and turned on the fourth and eighth days.
“Mushroom production has four stages namely pasteurisation, planting, incubation and harvesting. Pasteurisation involves the elimination of harmful organisms that prohibit mycelium (the white substance that produces mushrooms) from growing,” explains Anthony.
The farmer uses methylated spirit as a pasteurising agent, which helps to inhibit the growth of competitor mushrooms, bacteria and virus.
The mixture is ready to be put in clear bags when the straws are darker, easy to bend and have a strong smell of ammonia.
He gets the mushroom seeds from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology at Sh500 per kilo.
“Spawning is the process of planting mushroom seeds in the composted mixture. Once the seeds are attached to the sugarcane bagasse, they become whitish,” says the 33-year-old, who represented Kenya in the 2007 Big Brother show.
HARVESTED SEVERAL TIMES
Mushrooms thrive in temperatures of between 16 to 300C. Therefore, Anthony uses moist sawdust to make the room humid. “Once you place the compost mixture in a mushroom structure, you water the floor to ensure the temperatures are below 250C and humidity is sustained at 75 per cent,” he says.
The plant is harvested several times throughout its lifetime. The first harvesting happens after 15-20 days of soil casing and 35 days after spawning.
“You know it is ready for harvest when the edges of the mushrooms start to dry whether it is huge or tiny in size,” says the farmer, noting the lifetime of a mushroom is three to four months.
A small-scale mushroom producer can harvest over 10kg of the oyster variety weekly. Anthony sells a kilo of mushrooms at Sh800 to individual buyers in the county and to hotels such Kisumu Hotel and Kiboko Bay Resort.
In a good month, the farmer make sales of between Sh32,000 to Sh60,000.
Anthony traces his dalliance with mushrooms back to his teenage years when his mother was undertaking a research on production of the organism.
“My first interaction with mushrooms was in 2000 when my mother was studying a PhD in botany, focusing on mushrooms. I would help her mix the compost for mushroom growth,” he recalls.
In November 2004 after his studies in South Africa, where he also undertook his high school education, he went into the business, starting with a capital of Sh25,000 from his savings.
AFFECTED BY FUNGAL PATHOGENS
He set up the grass thatched mushroom house and the materials for mushroom production. Besides selling the produce, he offers two-day training charging Sh15,000 for individuals, Sh30,000 for groups and Sh45,000 for cooperatives or NGOs. He also runs a fitness centre in Kisumu.
He warns that one should watch out for fungal attack on the oyster mushrooms.
“When fungi attacks the oyster mushroom, it is advisable to quarantine the infected sack so that the infection does not affect the plants further,” he says, adding he plans to expand the structure to produce 100kg of mushroom every week.
According to Anthony, his experience as a Big Brother housemate has helped him market his business and sign various contracts for his mushroom company.
Prof Mary Goretti Ohanya, a microbiologist at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, says that even though mushroom is a fungus, it is affected by a range of fungal pathogens.
“The fungal attack comes with greenish powder on the mushroom. The pseudomonas bacteria causes yellow to brown marks on the cap of the mushroom which become sticky.”