Africa Mushrooms, PLC
Trip Start Feb 04, 2008
9Trip End Feb 18, 2008
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The biology lab was what I imagine an American bio lab looked like in the 1970's. They were sure getting their work done, though. One student was trying to coax a termitomyces variety into fruiting, without any termites involved. Most of the sterile transfers are done here in a wooden box that has been wiped down with rubbing alcohol.
Later, we rode in Dr. Abate's slow, diesel Land Cruiser to the outskirts of Addis Ababa to his wife's mushroom farm, Africa Mushrooms, PLC. He insists that he only offers technical expertise on occasion. It was quite impressive. Three or four grow rooms, from 100 - 400 square feet in size, were constructed out of poles and scraps. The roof and walls were mainly made of tarps or old bags, with some corrugated metal added. The shelves, also made of poles tied or nailed together, were full of blocks of mushroom mycelium either fruiting or preparing to fruit. One house had oysters, one shiitake, one agaricus brunnescens, and another had some experiments going with all those species plus enokitake.
Substrates that they used consisted of cottonseed hulls, sawdust, straw or bran, or some combination of those. Agaricus was grown on aged compost from their perfectly layered and watered compost piles. Water was from a hand dug well. One nice cultivation method they used was to stuff ceramic pots with moist substrate, put them on the fire to pasturize, and them inoculate with oyster spawn. The mushrooms would then grow out of holes in the side and top of the pots.
We had the girls harvest and package some oysters and shiitakes for us, and we made plans for a mushroom feast at the doctor's house when we would return to Addis Ababa, before leaving the country.