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Hi Chioma, thanks for the follow up questions. We've been exploring options for lowering the cost of the fungi growboxes using locally available materials (cement, insulation, air circulation and solar)  while addressing the challenges with most of the grow structures currently in use. To use the container growboxes at 2-4K + the growers would need to be growing high-value mushrooms like shiitake with an export market.  The other alternative would be to maximize their growing potential to grow at least 500 grow bags in a container, which would yield about 3kg per bag. The current price for oyster mushrooms is $4/kg. The climate controlled growboxes would enable them to grow 3 cycles of oyster mushrooms a year and allow the urban slum entrepreneurs to repay the growboxes they purchase on credit.

The people who had eaten wild mushrooms in the villages them.  The majority of the people had questions about how to prepare them.  Some people had concerns that all mushrooms are all poisonous. They is definitely need to educate consumers through product tastings, demos and promotions to show how to prepare mushrooms, how they can be added to traditional meals and their health benefits.

We put out a call for mushroom training and we have received  a number of messages from would be urban slum entrepreneurs requesting to be trained. They wanted to know if we would have a market for them once they had mushrooms
to sell. The reasons we received a lot of interest was the ability to earn an additional source of income, ability to work close to home, a source of food and having a guaranteed market.

(5) There is a market for fresh and value-added gourmet mushrooms locally. Currently, that demand has been concentrated in the middle to high-income segments of the urban population. Unfortunately specific, reliable data is not available. We do know that have been unable to meet that local demand due to the frequent power outages. For the value added and/or organic mushroom products, there is a large international market. According to the USITC, the mushroom market is a $20 billion a year market worldwide. The largest importer and center of the preserved gourmet mushrooms market is Germany. If production costs are controlled there is potential to supply competitive markets like Germany and Russia with value-added exotic mushrooms in the off-season. For the slum populations, they are still an unfamiliarity with cultivated mushrooms. We believe that processed mushroom products which don’t taste like fresh mushrooms are a good way of introducing them to mushrooms. We have seen this approach used successfully to introduce crickets to the US and European markets. The transport costs of operating close to the market in a place like Epworth are negligible. The town is close to the city center and also to the international airport. We are looking at motorcycle with a refrigerated trailer as a low-cost delivery vehicle to keep transport costs low. Yes, they are disease vulnerabilities to mushrooms if good sanitation and proper hygiene practices are not maintained throughout the growing cycle. These problems include things like competitor mould, insects and pathogens. Other problems with disease and pests are usually the result of poorly constructed grow houses. Well constructed grow house and good hygiene practices are the best methods of controlling disease infections. You are right that substrates are used up every growing cycle then composted. Most commercial growers stock up on their preferred substrates. The beauty of oyster mushrooms is the vast array of substrate options they can grow on. Bulk buying the substrates provides incomes to wheat and cotton farmers who are facing low prices. The locally available used containers are about $4000 for a 40 ft container and $2000 for a 20ft container. We would like to go directly to China to source used shipping containers. Yes a cheaper greenhouse is a great option for scaling down the cost, we have been exploring other growing options that flat-packed and can be assembled on site and can still address the power challenges.
(6)I envision using Amplify’s support to refine the idea to better meet the needs of the urban farmers. I also see it as an opportunity to get advise on good construction design, implementation and the operations of an integrated urban food production project. 

Hi Chioma,

Thank you for the questions from the experts. My responses are below.

(1) Reliable data on mushroom demand is currently limited. The Horticultural Promotion Council in Zimbabwe used to track this information, but last updated in 1999. The most recent report on the mushroom industry in Zimbabwe is from 2004 and doesn’t show overall demand. We determine demand based on our retail outlet and wholesale orders. We are currently unable to meet our supermarket and wholesale supplier orders especially during the hot periods due to power challenges. Currently most of our supermarket customers supplement supply during the hot season (summer) with imports from South Africa. You also see prices fluctuate throughout the year due to supply constraints most of the year and oversupply in winter months.
(2) We have looked at used shipping containers available locally at auction for about $4000 for a 40 ft. container, and $2000 for a 20ft depending on the condition. This is one option we have seen for sourcing and delivering containers for this project. The other option we see is importing already retrofitted shipping containers directly from China. This would be considered agricultural equipment, therefore, come in duty-free.
(3) Sure, my family has operated an independent grocery business called Musarurwa Supermarket since 1982. They have run shops in high-density areas like Mbare, Highfields and currently operate in Sunningdale.
(4) We have seen a fund called the CreateFund, that is operated by local financial institutions that are providing funding for inclusive agriculture projects. This is one option that we saw for funding. It, however, does not target the farmers directly but contracting companies and other intermediaries. With the current credit crunch and low funding environment, I believe that financing for an urban farming project like this will need to come from other sources like crowdfunding or marketing to the diaspora looking to support their families in Zimbabwe.