My name is Rachel and founder of Bella's Fresh Farm Produce which was founded in 2015. It is an oyster mushroom farm. I was first a vegetable supplier to grocery stores, supermarkets that I discovered that there is shortage of mushrooms. I saw it as a great opportunity to earn more, I had to risk. With my savings I went for training and then started my mushroom farming. I registered my business under the Kenyan law.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, things have been so hard. The hotels being my main market, most are closed. So your left thinking what to do. The idea of drying the mushrooms came up, where I can dry mushrooms to make soup thickener powder or make baby porridge flour with.
My idea is to merge with big flour making company to make the porridge flour due to my limited resources or to make my own flour.
My main reason for starting the business was:
- To be able to produce mushrooms for our local markets and earn income.
- To be able to create employment opportunities for the community around me to reduce poverty.
- To educate the community on the health benefits of having mushrooms in their diet.
Form women and youth groups to train them about mushroom farming and with this we will increase production of mushrooms in our country.
The main problem I am hoping to solve is to the shortage of mushrooms we have in our country. Statistics indicate that in Kenya we produce 476 tons out of the 1200 tons required in our country. This shows there is a big shortage. We import our mushrooms from Rwanda our neighboring country.
Its a fact that we bearly produce half of what we require from our local small scale farmers. This shows that there is a big market gap. We need to produce more so that we stop the importation costs and taxes.
We have different varieties of mushrooms, oyster, button, shiitake, reshi, portobello, maitake, enokitake, king oyster, lion maine, chaga etc.
Mushrooms are are sold to hotels especially vegetarian hotels that use mushrooms as a source of protein. They are sold to grocery stores, supermarkets etc.
Mushrooms are used in pharmaceutical companies to add nutritional value to the supplements we take. (company like Alliance Global is a good example).
Mushrooms are used to make organic farming chemicals.
Dried mushrooms make soup thickeners, can be added to porridge flour to add nutritional value.
Mushrooms have great medicinal benefits too, it has lipid lowering anti-tumor, microbial and viral properties, regulates blood pressure, removes serum cholesterol from the blood, boosts immunity system. Mushrooms contains vitamins, proteins, folio acid etc. Scientists believe there is more about mushrooms they need to be discovered.
Mushroom waste substrate can be recycled to make fertilizer that can be sold to farmers.
USE OF FUNDS:
If I get funded, I will use it to upgrade my oyster mushroom farm. Buy machinery such as humidifiers for the growing rooms since the bags are not supposed to get water, install gas chambers for sterilizing the mushroom bags. Connect electricity to all rooms, connect water collection system, buy shaft cutter for cutting wheat straw, fix shelves, buy raw materials, packaging papers etc.
I will install solar driers and grinders to dry and grind my mushrooms into powder.
In all these I will also start farming button mushrooms which is also in high demand in Kenya. For this I will rent out bigger space and build house structure, buy a mixer for turning the straw, buy a blower for removing excess ammonia, have water collection system, humidifiers, build shelves, buy greenhouse nets, buy raw materials, packing papers etc.
Current I have employed two permanent workers, and five casual workers. If I get funded, I will be able to create permanent jobs for my casual workers. This will improve their standard of living and decrease poverty.
My 5year future goals is to incorporate more varieties of mushrooms. To have a continuous cycle of mushroom production so that at no one time we will ever lack. Be able to supply to local markets and also export.
Train youths and women about mushroom farming. To empower them by creating a permanent source of income for them. They too will create employment opportunities for others and improve their standard of living.
Educate people on the health benefits of incorporating mushrooms in their diets. This will help reduce the common illnesses we have.
I hope to also start producing my own oyster spawn (seeds). With this I can produce high quality spawn and sell to other farmers.
Like I had mentioned earlier, mushrooms have no wastage. The waste substrate after harvesting will enable me to create a recycling factory where the substrate will be turned to fertilizer. This is also another source of job opportunities to the community.
I appreciate all those who will read this and see it as a worthy business project that deserve funding. Not only will it help me but it will help my community and my country as a whole.