Farming tips for the small-scale mushroom farmer
Are you interested in mushroom farming? While small-scale farmers are faced with numerous challenges, there are strategies you can use to increase your chances of succeeding. The lack of training for South African mushroom farmers is another limitation for people who want to enter this industry. A large part of your knowledge will be gained through trial and error. Read our blog post to learn more about the basics of mushroom farming or visit AgriMag for mushroom farming equipment.
Good-quality compost is essential for the success of any mushroom farm. If the ingredients in the compost are incorrect, it can have a negative impact on the quality of your crop as well as reduce your yield. Each different type of mushroom requires specialised compost. Depending on the type of mushroom, compost ingredients can include wheat straw and chicken manure as well as gypsum. Water is added and the ingredients are mixed together before being left to ferment.
It’s important to air the compost regularly to stop bad smells from developing. After three weeks, the compost is treated in three different phases before it is ready to be used. Initially, the compost is maintained at a steady temperature before it’s heated to destroy weeds and insects. In the final phase, the ammonia and nitrogen are changed into proteins, which facilitates the mushroom’s growth. What makes obtaining specialised compost challenging for South African mushroom farmers is that they are required to make it themselves rather than purchasing it from specialised companies.
You’ll need mushroom spawn to grow your crop as well as compost and cultivation bags. Once they’re filled, the bags are placed in a growing room where they are kept at a consistent temperature. The oxygen levels are also monitored to ensure that the conditions are optimal for growth. When the spawn grows, threads of mycelium are spread through the compost. Once this process is completed, you’ll need to add a casing layer. This layer can be made from peat moss or pith to provide the mushrooms with moisture. Peat moss is imported into South Africa, which makes pith an affordable option for local mushroom farmers. Casing layers should be 5cm to create the correct moisture content. Once the mycelium has grown, a decreased temperature and fresh air are used to trigger mushroom pins to start sprouting.
Mushrooms grow quickly, so you’ll need to monitor them closely. Mushrooms have to be picked by hand by twisting them off. Harvesting is labour intensive and it requires the right training to avoid damaging the mushrooms. Mushrooms have to be picked immediately otherwise their quality decreases, which has a negative impact on your profits. The casing soil should remain in the cultivator bag so it can be used again.
Selling your crop
You’ll need to find a market for your crop before its ready to be sold so that you can offer your customers fresh mushrooms that are of a high quality. Bulk deliveries can be made to restaurants and another option is to sell your mushrooms at markets. You’ll need to invest in the right vehicles to get your mushrooms from your farm to the buyer. In order to succeed, it’s important to build good relationships with your clients by offering a reliable service.
Now that you know more about mushroom farming, you can start looking for the right equipment and develop the skills that you need to succeed in this industry. This type of farming requires specialised knowledge and expertise, which means that you’ll need to spend time learning more about growing mushrooms before you start your business.