Mushroom farming remains relatively niche in South Africa. This is despite the rise in popularity of mushrooms among South African consumers. This demand is expected to grow in the coming years so starting a button farming business is worth considering.
With the right training, preparation and funding, you can turn a passion for mushrooms into a profitable business. In this guide, we’ll cover the essentials you need to know for getting your mushroom farming business started.
Mushroom farming opportunities and challenges
There is a huge market when it comes to mushrooms in South Africa and the rest of the world. There are a number of reasons for this, including the growing demand for healthy foods, as well as an increase in commercial production and distribution of mushrooms.
According to the South African Mushroom Farmers’ Association, mainly white button and brown mushrooms are grown in South Africa. There is also a market for exotic mushrooms, such as Oyster and Shiitake, and medicinal mushrooms, however, these are still very limited in South Africa.
One notable advantage for commercial mushroom farmers is the ability to not only sell their produce directly to customers, but also capitalise on opportunities in the hospitality sector catering to hotels and restaurants.
The sector is, however, not without its challenges. Mushroom farming requires specialised knowledge and expertise. The lack of training for South African mushroom farmers is significant limitation for people who want to enter this industry, according to Agrimag.
Getting started with mushroom farming in South Africa
Decide how big you want to be
Before you start, you first need to decide on the size of your production as this will determine the amount of mushrooms you will ultimately produce. Some factors to consider include the size of your land, the amount of capital you have, and the type of mushroom you want to farm.
Mushrooms are grown on a substrate which is organic waste. You can use straw, wood chips, sawdust or animal manure. The substrate provides nutrients needed for mushrooms to grow.
During the incubation period the mushroom substrate is placed in houses under controlled conditions with optimal temperature, humidity, and lighting conditions. Once fully developed, the mushrooms are harvested by hand. According to Food for Mzansi, mushrooms have to be picked immediately otherwise their quality decreases, which will have a negative impact on your profits.
Machinery and equipment requirements
The equipment requirements of mushroom farming can be extensive. It includes the following:
- Incubation house and other mushroom houses
- Grow bags or buckets
- Temperature control
- LED lighting
- Harvest rooms
- Refrigeration for harvested mushrooms