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Urban Mushroom Farms Network for turning Urban wastes into edible Oyster Mushrooms

What if we create a self-sustaining community by producing nutritious food at profit, while using materials that would be considered waste?

Photo of marco mihambo

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Food insecurity, poverty, malnutrition, pollution caused by waste and lack of employment and entrepreneurial opportunities are all eminent challenges faced by the world. The situation is worse in areas of sub Saharan Africa such as East African. Moreover, in Tanzania Poverty and food insecurity are the main drivers of chronic under-nutrition. And this Chronic under nutrition is the greatest contributor to under-5 mortality and is estimated to cost the country 2.65 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) due to lost revenues from poor cognitive and physical development in early life. It is caused primarily by inadequate access to a diverse and quality diet and poor feeding practices at home. Also, the economically underprivileged urban communities in Tanzania live without enough to feed or to satisfy their physiological needs especially the micro-nutrient. These communities are resource deprived as they struggle to meet their immediate necessities. Such scenario is also contributed by the level of unemployment in Tanzania whereby for the youth is estimated to be over 60 percent. With regard to this background we have identified the opportunities in mushrooms cultivation as the best means to tackle the above mentioned problems. And this is driven by their bio-conversion ability of turning organic wastes to be a mushrooms substrate and at the same time makes money in selling of those mushrooms.

Therefore, we are proposing to establish a Network for Urban Mushrooms farms that will use urban agricultural wastes, residues or industrial by products for production of spawn (mushroom), production of fresh and dried mushroom, mushroom kits preparation as well as training of people on mushroom production aspects and processing mushroom into different products.

 The proposed agricultural wastes are paddy straws, rice bran, and sisal waste from farmers and hardwood sawdust from urban carpentry workshop as well as dried chicken manure for mushrooms substrate preparation.  Then the harvested mushrooms will be processed into chips using industrial dehydrators. The mushroom chips will be packaged for sale to households and other market in Tanzania at affordable prices. Our aim is to ensure every individual in Tanzania have access to quality protein at cheaper prices, compared to the high cost of animal protein.  On other side, we will also produce tonnes of fertile compost that will be used to improve local soils and provide employment for local unemployed people who carry out a training program alongside working on the project. Therefore, at the end the Urban Mushroom Farm Network will deliver a steady supply of local, healthy and nutritious food to the community, fertile compost to the soil, and training for the unemployed - all from an urban waste stream!

We are expecting to organize a lot of workshops as our spreading strategies for training the community especially unemployed youth on modern mushroom production and processing. Through the replication by the youths, more food will be produced, more households will be fed and more jobs will be created.

Who will benefit?

  • Farmers will earn additional income for selling agricultural waste materials that would otherwise be discarded and cause environmental pollution. 
  • Businesses will save money for their waste disposal costs e.g. carpentry, milling machine etc This is because in Urban area It has been expensive to send food waste to landfill, and there are often considerable fees to have food waste disposed of through more environmentally friendly alternatives
  • The public will benefit from reduced food waste as they cause a huge environmental problem. Rotting food produces methane which contributes to climate change which affects us all.
  • Jobs creation and Provision of additional revenue source. The project will provide  direct employment for individuals who will work with our network of Urban mushrooms farm and also will acts as a driving force in increasing community’s  revenue for the unemployed individuals and others  who will be trained and start their own mushroom cultivation venture.
  • Consumers will enjoy affordable mushrooms which is sustainable, nutritious and delicious!

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We have already carried out a rough simple test for growing mushrooms and were successfully. But currently we really eager to experiment the idea at large scale and consider advice from scientific and legal experts as far as our targeted agricultural wastes and the urban location is concerned by complying with the urban regulations for operating Urban farming as well as developing a win-win kind of partnership with potential partners who are necessarily for our business success.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

In realizing the urban Mushrooms farms network ; We first needs experts who will guide us in identifying the right ratio for the wastes that would be used in preparing mushrooms substrate. Also, we need guidance on how to identify potential partners for our business success as well as the right form of partnership that the business is supposed to pursue for being successful. Lastly, we need support and suggestions on recent technology necessarily for operating Mushrooms Production.

Tell us about your work experience:

I have been working with my sister to run our Day Care and Training center . Currently, I am working with the Ministry responsible for Science and Technology and Innovation.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • An Individual

How far along is your idea?

  • It was in the works before this challenge – it’s existed for 2-6 months


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mismak Zena Gessesse

Hi Marco,

Firstly, I love mushrooms and I hope that one day I will be able to grow it at home. Your post was certainly encouraging. You have a great idea and I hope you get to develop and execute it!

I like how you worked your project around a set of concrete beneficiaries- that is great! I would do some type of exercise, perhaps a series of workshops, for identifying partners and establishing solid partnerships. A good place to start is to invite people from your target beneficiaries– the farmers/the other sources for waste, disadvantaged youth, potential consumers including retailers – to get a buy-in from them and hopefully a picture of everyone's roles and responsibilities in the value chain. This process can also help in identifying other potential partners that may not be obvious right now.

Also, I am aware that all vegetables (and fungi:) have some protein content but I wonder if you can promote mushrooms as predominately protein foods. Not an expert at this but just suggesting that it might be a good idea to look more closely into the nutritional content of mushrooms.

Best of luck implementing the project! 

Photo of Dhananjay Abhang

Hello Marco Mihambo, the idea seems really good but what i think  instead of using farm west you should try using fertilizer generated by processing food waste. Food waste disposal is the biggest problem that any city is facing in this world. Also food waste more dangerous for environment than agriculture waste. Because food waste generates methane gas which is more harmful and the agricultural waste generated is in dry form which is relatively very less harmful for environment. Also since you are proposing to create network of urban farmers, you will organic fertilizer in city itself by processing food waste instead of collecting agriculture waste from rural area. 

Photo of Jan

I love your win/win/win/win solution.

Here are some ideas from some other submissions as well as some of my own:

With an appropriate distribution network, mushrooms could just be sold fresh.

Your idea should work for other types of mushrooms as well. Portabellos are especially meaty and are widely used here (in Canada and the US) by vegetarians and vegans.

There are many shops selling smoothies which end up with a lot of fruit pulp. Perhaps this is a source of substrate as well.

Photo of Jan

I'm told that breweries have a lot of solid waste (grain products and hops) from making beer and that they have trouble getting rid of it.  Maybe this would be suitable to incorporate into your substrate.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Great idea!

Which waste source is the biggest? Are any of these waste sources seasonal? Can you just use one type of waste source or does it need to be a mixture?

Photo of Niki Ramchandani

This is a great idea. I like how it is holistic in its approach, tackling many problems at once. My advice would be to start with a simplified proof of concept, showing that waste can lead to the development of mushrooms which can then be sold.  After that, addressing job creation and composting would be easy add on's. Great work!

Photo of Kaitlin Mogentale

Very cool! This reminds me of the company using coffee grounds to grow mushrooms - Back to the Roots. 

Photo of Onyewuchi Joel Eze

Nice idea.  but think of this.

Formulating a Training module of  Oyster mushroom cultivation for the unemployed youth and homemakers through a System Approach of Training. An approach which will be targeting at cultivating mushroom through the conversion of agro-wastes. This method is needed in supplying to the demands for protein by the growing population as well as to overcome malnutrition in developing countries such as Tanzania.In other to meet to this growing protein food demands of the country, there is a need to popularize unconventional protein food sources like mushrooms. Hence there is a demand for technology at grass root level to enable people to break away from poverty trap and acquire a sense of livelihood. Skill acquisition (training) center will be considered the outlet for an exchange of concepts within the community.

Tanzania been a primarily agricultural based country. The diversity in soil and climate condition allows a production of variety of crops in different parts of the country. This provides vast potential for the cultivation of mushrooms due to much availability of raw materials from agro-waste and conducive climate conditions. Mushroom cultivation has various advantages as it converts complex organic ligno cellulosic compounds into nutritious food, aids recycling of agro-waste, contributes to pollution control, does not compete with agricultural land and provides avenues to self employment.

Consider this in modification.

I greet and wish you exceedingly well.

Photo of Julius Egwuche

Hi Marco,
Nice idea on Mushroom poduction. I believe setting up a cooperative in line wth the Idea in your community will create the network that you desire to form. For the idea to become easily acceptable in your community, scientific approach is needed, that is there have to be a standardisation such as the list of what urban agricultural wastes, residues or industrial bye- products required for the production of mushroom. You can combine organic manure production such as vermicomposting with mushrooms production. this will help to ensure all available organic waste are recycled. 

Photo of Ozuluonye Shedrack

Hi Marco,
Your idea is great and its impact would be felt in your country and other african countries. you have a lot of tasks ahead to accomplish during this impact face because your idea touches lots of sectors. Beneficiaries i means. Hence trying to test all beneficiaries to ensure their responses aligns with you idea is sacrosanct.
what will be the lead time to get the bye products from carpentry etc and the usage in the farm. In realizing the urban Mushrooms farms network what operating cost does it requires apart from collecting the anticipated food waste. 
also show to the community how you think the idea will be able to gather momentum from all stakeholders during implementation process. Are there possibility that your mushrooms requires a specific than the above mentioned. you may be needing expert or experience experts in mushroom production.

Photo of Bertha Jimenez

Hi Marco,
Great contribution! I enjoy hearing about ideas that have an environmental side of it and can also be financially sustainable. I have a couple clarifying questions for you. What type of by-products is better for the composting and the production of mushrooms? How will you manage the logistics for your product? Will it be a production facility in place, or will it be distributed production? How many grams of proteins can mushrooms provide?
Thanks again for this great idea ☺

Photo of An Old Friend

Hi Marco Mihambo I think this is a great idea to help people get more protein intake at lower costs as an alternative to higher cost protein foods and helping to fertilize the soil at the same is very beneficial. Read this post and I read that mushrooms are very easy to grow: Hanson is fond of his oyster mushrooms, because as he says “They are so easy to grow.” He just mixes spawn with straw and puts the straw in plastic bags with slits. A few weeks later, he has mushrooms.
Mushrooms have a low startup cost, and are adaptable to most parts of the country, so go for it and I wish you much success!

Photo of marco mihambo

Hello! OpenIdeo community, you are warmly welcomed to pass through on this post and share some of the inputs for further improvement of the idea

Photo of OpenIDEO

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