Farm mills profit from mushrooms

Coffee and tea are the main cash crops grown here, but farmers also embrace pineapples and potatoes. With its burgeoning population, Alice Wamboi has found a perfect location to launch her value-added mushroom start-up.

Named Mycellia and Foods Limited, Wamboi processes and packs dried mushrooms for sale.

“I dry and grind two varieties of mushrooms, namely button mushrooms and oyster mushrooms. I sell to families and traders who mix with other compound flours such as wheat or sorghum,” explains the agripreneur, who also has three mushroom farms in his rural home, each measuring 30 by 15 meters. adding value is her latest, she has been cultivating the crop since 2019. It is kept constant,” she explains. .

“This is achieved by misting the mushroom house. After a month of incubation, the pinheads of the mushrooms start to appear, and then harvesting follows soon after,” she adds.

Alice Wamboi launched the value-added business in January after realizing she was making a loss selling fresh produce through an 80-member self-help group she was part of. “Mushrooms are highly perishable, they cannot last more than five days. Unfortunately, once harvested, only 45% make it to market,” she says.

To improve her value-added business, she enrolled in a six-month product development course, which she completes in two months.

“Dried mushrooms can last a long time as long as they are not in contact with moisture, and that is why they become a popular delicacy when prepared in soups, roasted, grilled or fried,” he explains. -she.

She injected more than 30 million shillings, a grant from the Kenya Climate Innovation Center and her savings into the project.

The money was used to buy two solar panels and to build the drying chamber, a milling machine and to rent a room where she processes and packages her products. From his three mushroom units, Wamboi harvests about 200 punnets every day, which corresponds to 50 kilograms. She buys more from the Mushroom Farmers Self-Help Group at Shs5,400 for a 250g pack of button variety and oysters at Shs4,320 for the same pack.

She dries the mushrooms for three days, with 800 kilograms of fresh produce yielding about 80 kilograms of dry produce.

“When the products are received from the farmers, we first sort them and then weigh them. Then it is sliced ​​evenly and distributed in the two-tier solar dryers. Air is actively extracted from the centrifugal fan and redirected to the mushrooms to speed drying,” she explains.

After three days, Wamboi normally tests the mushroom for moisture content which is determined by its crispness.

It grinds some of the product to make mushroom powder and packages the rest to sell under its Mycellia Foods brand.

“Nursing mothers, toddlers and the elderly are the biggest consumers of products as well as traders who go to mix other flours. The mushroom contains 60% protein, no cholesterol and is a good source of vitamin B2 and iron,” says Wamboi, who before entering the mushroom business worked as a utensil salesman. She sells 100 grams of dried mushrooms at Shs 14,400 and 40 grams of mushroom powder at Shs 7,200.

Margaret Kavindu, a food specialist, says that one can prepare various products from mushrooms such as jam, sauce and preservatives, which guarantees higher income. According to her, the added value of the mushroom is ideal because it reduces the bulk of the product, especially in commercial production. “Dried mushrooms fetch more on the market than fresh ones. But to be successful, proper training is necessary as it is important to establish the right skills in cultivation and marketing strategies,” she says.

Kavindu advises agripreneurs in the sector to maintain high standards of hygiene during the value addition process, from drying, chopping, milling to packaging to ensure their products are fit for human consumption.