Africa is currently undergoing what scientists call a mycelium revolution. In Kenya, mushroom farming is expanding at an alarming rate because the fungus mushrooms are made of can produce everything from plastics to plant-based meat.
“Many people are becoming more concerned about what they eat and are going for healthier alternatives,” says Roussoss Demisse, the Founder of Mushrooms Kenya. “The market has greatly grown and, as per our estimations, is at 150 tons per month.” Since opening Mushrooms Kenya six years ago, Demisse has trained more than 450 farmers in both Kenya and its neighboring countries.
He is also seeing the boom in medicinal mushroom use as different types become more well-known. “This undoes the myth that most Africans had that mushrooms are deadly,” he says. “As the medicinal research work grows in Africa, the relevant organizations are coming to appreciate these mushrooms and the possibility of using these mushrooms to come up with solutions to some of the dire challenges such as medication for certain types of diseases.”
Craig Fourie, the Managing Director of Mushroom Guru, believes that “People are starting to look for alternative medicines, and they’re finding medicinal mushrooms,” he says. Fourie is now a medium-sized producer in the Western Cape province of South Africa. He trains anyone looking to grow gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. “While it is easy enough for anyone to grow mushrooms, there is a steep learning curve. Unlike agriculture, where you put a seed in the soil (geoponics) or when you put a seed in water (hydroponics), growing mushrooms is the treatment of air or aeroponics,” explains Fourie.
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