By Chinyere Ogbonna- As Nigeria’s government emphasizes the need to diversify its economy away from oil, many Nigerians, corporate organisations, religious bodies and learning institutions as well as individuals including the youth are embracing agriculture in all its value chain to boost food production and guarantee good security.
One of such companies is CHITOLA Farms into the production of diverse farming business including mushrooms production and marketing. Mushrooms Development Foundation Nigeria, MDF-N, a subsidiary of ChiTola Farms has just entered into partnership with the Babcock University Ilishan, Remo, Ogun State, southwest Nigeria to boost the production of high breed edible mushrooms for local consumption as well as for the export market.
Addressing the forum at the Babcock University in Ilisan, Ogun State, Founder Mushrooms Development Foundation MDF -N, Chi Tola told the university authority that the partnership was going to be a business venture that other universities in Nigeria would like to emulate. The MDF-N boss who noted that the Micro Biology Department of the Babcock University would be used for researches into mushrooms production in Nigeria, added that the training was going to be in modules. She assured the Vice Chancellor that her Foundation was going to off take all the Mushrooms produced from the mushrooms farm from the university.
Speaking further on mushrooms farm practices, the Founder MDF-N Chi TOLA said the choice of mushrooms farming was informed by its nutritional components “Mushroom is a food that is low in Sodium, and very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein” She explained that to start a mushrooms farm does not cost much as long as there is space and a little fund to begin.
” Mushrooms business is very lucrative if you have a space of between 12ft×12 ft. For us at the Mushrooms Development Foundation, if you are going into mushrooms farming and as a member of the foundation, we come to inspect your space. There are certain standards that we have set out for those who have shown interest to go into Mushrooms farming business that such a person must meet to ensure that what you put out there, is edible, it is not contaminated and not poisonous. So, you must adhere to the foundation’s growing standards. We have a manual, so if you have a space, you don’t need to go through the rigours of doing the compost, doing the basics, you can just buy your colonised bags from the Foundation which you will take to your space, we will inspect and confirm that it’s okay for cropping, you put your bags there and you just keep watering them and in ten fourteen days you see the Mushrooms coming out” she said.
Speaking on the initial capital to take off. “If you have just like 20, 30 thousand naira, you can start the Mushrooms business that’s if you already have a space, and the space I mean is not just an open space, like I said it is a 12_×12ft structure, it could be a half wall with nets around it, you are good to go” Chi Tola advised members of the public to join the foundation”.
She said that mushroom consumption is mainly concentrated in six countries known as G-6 (USA, Germany, UK, France, Italy and Canada) consuming 85 per cent of world consumption. The varieties of mushroom cultivated internationally. This project would give the state the much-needed revenue and generate employment”, she added.
Also, addressing the meeting for the partnership, a member of board of MDF-N, who is also a renowned Agriculture Consultant, Dr. Tony Wemton emphasised on the benefits that would accrue to the university and noted that revenue generation was critical to the university and other stakeholders in the partnership. Dr. Wemton stressed that agribusiness was the way to go now. He assured the university authority that they would have no regrets delving into the business as the marketing of the produce would be taken care of by the foundation, while assuring them of a hundred percent return on their investment. The Agriculture Consultant spoke on creating a Babcock Farmers Business School, to create a network of farmers to exchange ideas and improve on student’s background field experience. He explained that the business school would include every stakeholder in the value chain.
Dr.Wemton while trying to allay the fears of whether or not it was going to be a worthwhile venture, noted that there were industries that required the commodity as a raw material for their productions. He however, decried that the country had farmers who were not really informed about developments in the agriculture sector and also stressed the need to incorporate the students into the business to further expand their practical knowledge and modern technology in mushrooms business as well boost the revenue generation for the institution. Dr. Wemton said the project would afford many stakeholders the rare opportunity to learn all the biodiversity and rebrand Nigerian farmers to begin to see opportunities that abound in the agriculture sector in all its value chain.
He observed that a large chunk of Nigerian farmers were not doing it right, siting the application of pesticides, which he said they usually did not apply at the right time to avoid them being harmful to humans at the end of the day.
In his response, the Vice Chancellor of Babcock University, Professor Ademola Tayo who was so excited about the initiative, said that although the Institution was already into some agriculture projects like pineapple farming, vegetable, yam among others, embraced the partnership “I pledge my total support in the realisation of the dream. It’s our own way to contribute to food security in the country and also, an additional source of revenue generation for the university” he said.
Speaking further in an interview after the meeting, the Chief Executive of ChiTola Farms, Chi Tola said two critical things required for Mushrooms Farming were space and adequate source of water supply.
According to research by Yes Bank, Mushroom belonging to fungi species, is a nutritious vegetarian delicacy and a good source of high quality protein (20-35 percent dry weight). Presently three varieties of mushroom are cultivated namely, white mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), the paddy-straw mushroom (Volvariella vovvacea) and oyster mushroom (Pleurotus sajor-caju). Agaricus species are mostly cultivated mushroom globally, contributing 35-40 per cent of the world production. Mushroom is consumed as a delicacy and possesses several medicinal properties. It is an efficient means for conversion of agricultural wastes into valuable protein and presents huge potential for generating additional income and employment. Globally, the mushroom market is in excess of an estimated two point seven billion dollars ($2.7 billion)annually.
The collaboration between Babcock University and the Mushrooms Development Nigeria would bring to bear latest agricultural practices in Mushrooms Farming. In an interaction with the Babcock Micro Finance Bank to fund the Mushrooms Development Foundation Cooperative, Dr. Wemton deliberated on the essence and modalities for the collaboration with the bank for the business to thrive. The management of the bank embraced the initiative describing it as mutually beneficial