Steve Agbota; [email protected] 08033302331
In the Nigerian agricultural space, mushroom cultivation is new to people. Many entrepreneurs want to start small with a pilot project before investing substantial capital. This makes sense and is entirely possible.
For anybody to be successful in mushroom business, such person must consider greenhouse technology, as it enables farmers to grow round the year and prevents pests and diseases from attacking crops. It also helps farmers to grow crops organically.
However, it is on record that mushroom (mushroom powder) was among Nigeria’s agric produce that was rejected by European Union (EU) because it was not organically produced and contains aflatoxin.
These challenges will become things of the past if farmers can take the pains and adopt greenhouse technology.
With N50,000, smallholder farmers can acquire small greenhouse tunnels; 10m to 15m long and 8m wide are readily available from local suppliers. One of the importance of greenhouse is that it makes even higher operations feasible, enabling farmers to grow mushroom in all seasons, and allowing for their fast growth.
Most big hotels in Nigeria currently import mushroom from abroad and neighbouring countries, which shows there is huge potential in the business.
Speaking with Daily Sun, the Chief Executive Officer, Jovanna Farms, Prince Arinze Onebunne, said that mushroom farming can serve as means of creating employment and conquering poverty in Nigeria.
Onebunne explained that starting a mushroom farm is a potentially lucrative way of getting into the farming business. It’s cultivation is also regarded as one of the most science-based branches of agriculture and horticulture. Growing mushroom is a rewarding experience.
Not only can it be used for your dining table, you might also be able to develop great relationships with individuals, health food stores, hotels and caterers, “if you have a small space to create a small farm.”
Backyard mushroom farming only takes 5 metre area to earn additional income, while keeping many top class restaurants supplied. Housewives, students, the unemployed, business minded people, retired people; anyone with some free time can try it. The oyster mushroom is a highly sought-after mushroom that grows everywhere and is prized by mushroom lovers for its distinct taste and spicy-aromatic flavour.
According to Onebunne, “you can turn part of your backyard into a small mushroom house.” The investment includes the structure itself, mushroom substrate and organic pesticides. Cultivation is all round the year. Oyster mushroom weighing 30 kilogrammes could be sold to wholesalers for N60,000. The revenue from little mushroom house could make investment break even within three or four months.
Currently in the country, mushroom farming is getting popular on the outskirts of urban areas and other big cities because of high demand from restaurants. This business is suitable not only for entrepreneurs, students and housewives, but also retired white-collar workers who can earn additional income.
He said edible mushrooms are considered as healthy food because their mineral content is higher than that of meat or fish and most vegetables. The protein content of fresh mushrooms is about twice that of vegetables and four times that of oranges.
Mushrooms contain proteins which have all the nine amino-acids that are essential for our health.
Apart from the nutritional value of mushrooms, they have potential medicinal benefits and are also an ideal food for diabetics and obese people.
He hinted that many opportunities abound in the production of mushrooms as many hospitality industries in the country still import the product to add to their menus. Majority of big hotels in Nigeria have mushrooms in their daily menu but this mushroom come from abroad.
It means that local production will have a ready market. Cultivation of mushrooms involves mainly the use of agricultural waste without the use of chemicals and it appears safe.
He noted that more farmers are of late going into the farming of mushrooms, a neglected and forgotten healthy food, which is not only improving the financial status of the producers but the health of the consumers as well.
The rate at which Nigerians have shown interest in the eating of mushrooms is giving a massive boost to production of the delicacy.
Local demand for mushroom is increasing as the people become more health conscious by avoiding the consumption of red meat that is loaded with cholesterol.
The technology for the cultivation of mushroom species could be easily adopted by individuals, co-operative societies, families, farmers, schools in the rural and urban centres without difficulties. The cultivation of mushroom can be done all year round as sources of the mushrooms are from agricultural wastes, which are always available in abundance in Nigeria.
Additionally, while a kilo of chicken goes for N1,000 on average in Nigeria, a kilo of mushroom is N3,000. Mushroom beds need a dark environment for only 14-18 days while harvesting is usually four to five days after opening the white-bags. Mature mushrooms become ready for harvesting in another four days.
He explained that choosing the kind of mushroom is important because growing techniques vary depending on type. At Jovana farms, “we produce and sell mushroom spawns (seeds), spraying equipment, compost bags, fresh and dried mushroom. We also train and help people set up their mushroom farms.
“My advice to intending farmers is to attend a training course for mushroom growing and cautiously select a service provider and use hygienic mushroom substrate.”