Is Kigali Farms a business or an NGO?
Kigali Farms is a social enterprise. It is a for-profit enterprise with a social purpose. Our customer is the Rwandan farmer and the Rwandan consumer. When all is said and done, the customer decides whether our product meets their need, and whether our vision is sustainable.
What does Kigali Farms do?
Simply put, we produce the raw material that is at the foundation of the mushroom industry: mushrooms substrate, often referred to in Rwanda as mushroom tubes because the substrate is packaged in small plastic bags that look like tubes. Mushroom substrate is essentially the fungus itself, with all its supply of food and nearly all its supply of water, sufficient to sustain the fungus for a period of 12 weeks, all of it packaged in a plastic bag. This bag, nurtured under the right conditions by the farmer, will produce mushrooms continuously for 12 weeks, much like a chicken would produce eggs.
Business-wise, we sell this substrate to mushroom farmers, many of whom are first-time mushroom farmers whom we train and help set up. We also offer production assistance. We then offer to buy back the mushrooms from the farmer, and commercialize these mushrooms.
We encourage producers to find their own markets, especially in their local communities. Still we recognize that access to market can be challenging, and our buy-back program is an attractive guarantee that takes most of the commercial risk away.
Successful farmers will remain long-term customers, and this is why offering free assistance makes good business sense as well as social sense. Having said that, we want growers to feel responsible for their own success. Growers who strive for higher yields will earn more income for themselves and their families.
How can I start growing mushrooms?
That's easy! The fungus in the substrate tubes has all the food it needs, and nearly all the water. All it needs is a sheltered place with the right temperature (about 20 °C), the right humidity (about 90%), relative obscurity and a slight draft. This means that mushroom growing happens indoors!
Depending on whether you have a structure available or need to build one, our team will have the right technical recommendations for you. We provide this information for free.
Once the right facility is in place, you can put the ready-to-grow substrate bags in place and within 10 days, the first flush of mushrooms will be harvested.
Can anyone grow mushrooms?
As you can read above, starting a mushroom business is straightforward, so yes, the simple answer is that anyone can grow mushrooms.
However, we would like to offer a word of caution. Growing mushrooms is easy and anyone can do it. In fact, find out about our Grow-it-yourself kit. However, to grow mushrooms commercially and make good money at it, you must strive for the best possible yields.
To achieve this, you must tend to your mushroom house carefully, I would even say lovingly! The right conditions must be maintained at all times. It is important to follow the directions we will give you, and also to devote time and attention and learn from experience. Not all mushroom houses will have the same conditions. You must learn to know your mushroom house, and recognize the right time to add water or ventilation.
This is like any kind of farming: respect your crop, and it will reward you handsomely.
Can I grow mushrooms at home?
YES! In fact, we think mushrooms are the perfect crop for home gardening: on just one tenth of a square meter (one square foot), you can harvest up to 200 gram per week of fresh mushrooms! Some weeks there will be more and some weeks less, so you can easily tailor a meal around your harvest of the day!
The upfront investment is less than 2.000 francs every twelve weeks, and you only need to add water
We have developed a Grow-it-yourself kit that anyone can afford. Just about anyone with a house in Kigali
How can mushrooms offer such high yields?
On a per acre basis, mushrooms are unbeatable. One hectare of land in the Musanze area, on the typical potato-maize cycle, will yield at best xxx tons of potatoes and xxx tons of maize per year. Mushrooms would give you 350 ton (assuming 50 mushroom houses of 150 square meters each). How is that possible?
For one thing, mushrooms are not plants but fungi. Plants need to capture energy from the sun and painstakingly transform inorganic building blocks from the soil into organic compounds, only a part of which are edible. Only about a third of the biomass sprouting from a wheat seed will be edible grain. Fungi on the other hand feed on and transform pre-existing organic matter. The substrate bags sold by Kigali Farms contain both that food and the fully formed fungus, ready to start producing "fruitbodies" or "mushrooms". During the twelve weeks of a typical production cycle, the fungus will focus all its energy on producing these mushrooms. One kilogram of substrate will produce up to 600 gram of mushroom during that period.
Production is not season-dependent: mushrooms are grown indoors and are not subject to the vagaries of the weather; they are grown year-round: you can fit four 12-week cycles and a few weeks of rest into one year.
Mushrooms do not need to be planted in soil, but rather on shelves or trays, typically above-ground, which allows cultivation on several levels and the occupation of more volume for a given square footage.
Are mushrooms safe to eat?
Cultivated oyster mushrooms, and many others, are perfectly safe to eat. In fact they provide high-quality nutrition.
But some mushroom species found in the wild contain compounds that can make the mushrooms toxic, or even lethal. Do not eat mushrooms harvested in the wild unless you can identify them with 100% confidence.
Is Kigali Farms active only in Rwanda?
Yes, we produce mushroom substrate and mushrooms only in Rwanda. We do export to DRC, and will export to Uganda and Kenya when production allows.