"For commercial mushrooms, we do not grow them in the soil but we make substrate
from wheat straw or bagasse, molasses, cotton seeds, chicken manure, urea,
fertilizer, agricultural lime, gypsum and pesticides.
"These are mixed at
various stages and it takes about three weeks for the growing media to be
ready," he said.
The farmer does not make the substrate himself but works with an agronomist
from an agricultural institution in Kiambu, who does the work for him at 25,000
Kenyan shillings (245 U.S. dollars).
"Once I get the substrate, I put it in polythene bags but other farmers
spread on the shelves whose bottom must have a waterproof material.
"The mushroom seeds called spawns are then planted," he explained, adding
that the room must be dark and temperatures inside must be about 22 degrees
Celsius for good results.
The spawns sprout after a month and about a week later, one starts
harvesting, which continues for up to three months.
"During this time, the crop should be watered every day and humidity in the
room should be low.
"There is no application of fertilizer or pesticides on the crops," said
He harvests the produce, packs it in punnets of 250g each and delivers them
to the hotel that also hosts foreign tourists, where he has a guaranteed market.
"I sell to them at 1.5 dollars per punnet but sometimes prices rise to 2
dollars when demand is high or fall to 1 dollar when low," said Kinyua, adding
he harvests some 50 punnets a day.
Vincent Mutisya, who has converted one of the rooms in his house in Utawala,
Nairobi, into a mushroom farm, also supplies his produce to a hotel along
"They use mushrooms to make soup or serve them as separate meal that is
accompanied by rice, potatoes, pasta or any other carbohydrates and vegetables
because the fungi are a good source of protein.
"A bowl of soup goes for 2 to 4 dollars depending on the hotel," said Mutisya,
noting he spent 980 dollars to start the business.
Hotels are the biggest buyers of mushrooms, according to Mutisya and Kinyua,
but consumption among Kenyan households is also picking up, with most people
buying them from fresh produce markets in the capital.
Kenya’s hospitality sector has been on upward trajectory supported by
increased international tourist arrivals and local meetings.
A number of hotels and serviced apartments have been opened in the East
African nation in the past years as the country similarly hosts various
Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed that Kenya held
3,844 local conferences in 2017, up from 3,755 recorded in 2016, while the
number of delegates came in at 623,749 in 2017, up from 536,674 in 2016.
Hygiene is key in successful mushroom farming, according to Beatrice Macharia,
an agronomist in Nairobi.
"You can lose the entire harvest if you do not control flies, mites and
sometimes even rats which love to eat the substrate," she said.
According to her, three types of mushrooms are grown in Kenya namely oyster,
button and shiitakes, but the former are most popular because they mature faster
and are tastier.
"Mushroom are a wonder crop as they contain dietary fiber which helps
"They are also a source of protein, sodium, potassium, calcium and as well as
low cholesterol level thus good for people who want to lose weight," she said,
adding boom in mushroom farming has given agronomists like herself good