Mushroom farming experts have encouraged farming hopefuls to jump into the game with the little that they have, saying all it takes is dedication and a desire to farm. They were speaking at the Government Communications and Information System’s (GCIS) masterclass on a mushroom farming webinar this week.
Craig Fourie, who was one of the speakers and owns a mushroom farm called Mushroom Guru, said that he started his enterprise in 2014 with just R56 in his bank account. He said that he moved from Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape to Cape Town to start his mushroom farm, where he specialises in exotic mushrooms.
“One of the barriers of entry is that they think that they need a lot of money to get started,” Fourie told Vutivi News. “You can start off small with as little as R1000 to R2000, buy a kit and get friends and families involved by selling your mushrooms to them. “Fourie also said another barrier of entry was a lack of knowledge on how to grow mushrooms.
He said one could learn through trial and error, get training to start off with, as well as gain knowledge through platforms like YouTube. Fourie also noted that he expected to see a lot of collaboration between farmers in the future. Peter Nyathi, founder and managing director of Tropical Mushrooms in Magaliesburg, Gauteng, said that the industry was ripe for the picking and encouraged more farmers to ply their trade in mushroom farming.
“The industry does not have many players, especially for brown mushrooms,” he said. “There is a lot of industry instability in terms of production, so if you as a mushroom farmer approach the market with your products, they (retail) will say ‘come’ to you. ”Nyathi also said that someone who wanted to start mushroom farming would have to put in as much work as possible to make this dream a reality.
“I started the farm in 1999, and had a partnership with ABSA where I offered them shares in exchange for a loan because I did not have any money,” he said. “We bought them out in 2013, and we also managed to secure funding through the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. “Today we have a staff of 175 employees,” he added.
Nyathi said that mushroom farming required a large cash injection if a farmer wanted to start supplying the retail sector. In this regard, he cited entry-level capital and technical knowledge as inhibiting factors. “You will find that not even having R1 million is enough because you need to build two entities, one for manufacturing and the other for the agricultural (farming) element,” he said. According to Nyathi, the mushroom farming sector is small. The total sales of fresh mushrooms are just under R1 billion a year, which means that suppliers of inputs have the liberty to increase prices.