May you tell us a bit about your background?
My name is Kundai Musarurwa, I am a horticulture and pig farmer based in Ruwa. I completed a bachelor in Economics from Lindenwood University in Missouri, USA and have done several certificate courses in various agriculture crops since then. Together with my two sisters, Rumbidzai and Eleanor, we started a mushroom farming and processing business called Soko Mushrooms. I also co-founded a company called Emerging Farmer that assists farmers with market information, market linkages, and farmer networking opportunities.
Is farming something you have always wanted to do? and what made you choose mushrooms?
I left the United States to fulfill a career in farming because it was my passion from a young age where I grew up on a farm and have always appreciated the freedom that country life living affords. I chose mushrooms to specialize in because at the time there were very few mushroom farmers in Zimbabwe and it is a great niche market crop to invest in that offers high returns.
How long have you been in the business?
I have been in the business since 2011
What role has your family or friends played in your success story
My family has been pivotal in all my farming endeavors. Firstly, my parents granted me permission to use their land and build structures on it. Secondly, my sisters are my business partners who have helped the business to grow into what it is today.
What do you think it takes to succeed in such a business, and in your case mushrooms?
It takes a willingness to keep learning and always keeping up to date with the latest growing and marketing methods being used on a global scale. A mushroom farmer also needs to be meticulous with their record-keeping to ensure that the business is profitable and various other reasons like monitoring the processes and systems on the farm.
What are the tasks that you do regularly on your farm?
I wake up at 5.00 am to harvest and pack the mushrooms to ensure that they are all delivered before 8.00 am. I inspect the rooms and growing systems so I am clear on expected yield and to monitor for any possible contaminations that may have entered on a daily basis. At the end of the day, I balance the production output with the income received from the various payment methods that we receive.
What type of fertilizers, chemicals do you use when growing your produce?
We are an organic farm, the only ‘chemicals’ we use are bleach for disinfecting our grow rooms and equipment and we use lime to regulate substrate pH levels.
What are the Do's and Dont's when it comes to mushrooms?
Do your due diligence and know who your target customers are before you plant your first mushrooms
Do make sure that you have a clean and reliable water source at the farm
Do get training from a person/trainer who actually grows mushrooms themselves
Don’t try to cut corners
Don’t allow people that have not gone through your biosecurity to enter your grow rooms
what problems have you come across and how have you overcome them?
The major problems we have encountered are theft, where people have stolen equipment and mushrooms.
Rats, so we had to get rid of an entire crop as a result of rats nibbling on the mushroom caps
Can you tell us some of the projects you have worked on, which you found interesting? besides mushroom
I have worked on cherry tomatoes, pigs, broccoli and lettuce which are all crops that do well in my particular area.
What is it that excites you the most when you are doing your job?
The most exciting part is seeing the bags hanging in the grow room and the trays in the darkroom then watching the pins form into mushrooms as each day passes. Getting to the stage of packing the mushrooms and seeing them in the shops is very exciting.
What bits do you find boring in your daily tasks?
The boring part is when we have to sanitize all the equipment and the grow rooms to prepare for the next crop. This usually takes the entire day because we try to be as thorough as possible.
Any advice to those who would like to venture into mushroom farming
Find your market first, read up on as much information as you can and just start with the capital that you have and build up as you learn.
I have noticed you offer training packages, could explain how that goes?
Over the year’s people have been asking us to train them on how to grow mushrooms and so we decided to share our knowledge and experience. We offer training once a month to those who are interested in growing oyster or button mushrooms. These are one day courses for the theory and a practical on our working farm where we also provide our best-selling manual on mushroom cultivation. For an existing farmer, we provide consultation services to assist those whose yields are not reaching the required levels or are facing other challenges.