Sunday, 3 May 2015

Mushroom Farm

Laurent Demuynck, CEO of Kigali Farms
The scientific part of the mission is over.  The time has come to deliver our samples to Kigali farms.  The Petri dishes contain material of wild varieties of edible mushrooms.  With this material Kigali farms can start to carry out tests that could eventually lead to the commercial exploitation of certain species.

We arrive in Kigali where we meet up with Laurent Demuynck, the founder and CEO of the company.  He told us about the aims of his enterprise.

Kigali farms is a social profit making enterprise that was set up in 2010.  Coming from an idea to reduce the level of malnutrition, they have concentrated on mushrooms because they have a high nutritional value.  The wild edible mushrooms of Rwanda interested us from the beginning although they had never previously been researched.  Our ambition was to discover the hidden treasures of the Rwandan forests which are eaten by the local population

Our goal was to make Rwanda an example of excellence when it comes to the cultivation of mushrooms.

We then make our way to the production facility of Byumba where we meet Adriane Mukeshimana (production and quality control manager) who will show us the various stages of production, starting with the wild varieties collected by our mycologists.  So let's follow the guide…

Step 1
Purification of the mycelium

A piece of mycelium is removed from the collected mother material and transferred to a new Petri dish with agar nutrient medium.  This step takes place under sterile conditions following a standard protocol.  The mycelium can now start to grow.

Step 2
Preparation of the inoculum

An agar plug with mycelium is taken from the Petri dish and transferred to a growth medium based on milled grain.  The mycelium continues to grow into what we call an inoculum.

Step 3
Seeding of the inoculum into grow bags

The inoculum is seeded into pasteurised cotton bags containing cotton fluff, wheat husk and hydrated lime.  This specially formulated growth medium is not only favourable for the growth of mycelium but also for the fruiting bodies (sporophores) of mushrooms.

Step 4
The grow bags go to the incubator
The grow bags are stored in the dark in the incubation room.  These conditions prevent the premature formation of fruiting bodies.

Step 5
The grow bags are buried

The grow bags are finally transferred to trays containing soil.  The air humidity is kept at a constant 95% with a temperature of 18-22°C.  Under these conditions we can shortly expect fruiting bodies to develop on the surface of the soil.  In this case Oyster mushrooms that can then be harvested.

Hopefully the mushrooms which we collected on our expedition will also grow here… but it’s far too soon to say… Fingers crossed.

Saturday, 2 May 2015


The collection of edible mushrooms in the mountain forests is only the first stage in the work of our mycologists.  Back at base camp their working day has still many hours to go.

A sample consists of several mushrooms originating from the same mycelium.  The sample is given a number, a description and photos taken in the field.  Afterwards, each sample undergoes various procedures with three end goals:

1. Spore print and inoculation

Spore print 
The cap (pileus) of the mushroom is placed on a holder to collect the spores.  In mycological terminology, this is called taking a spore print.  The following day the spores are harvested and seeded onto a Petri dish containing growth medium (agar).  After a few days incubation the mycelium in the Petri dish are sufficiently grown to be passed onto to Kigali farms to grow on.

2. Living stems and DNA samples


A fragment of stem (stipe) 2mm is placed in a test tube containing CTAB, a substance that blocks the degradation of DNA.  Once in Belgium, these samples are for the collections of the Botanic Garden, Meise, whilst the living stems go to the mushroom collection of the UCL (Catholic University of Louvain la Neuve, Belgium).  The latter receive fungal samples from all over the world.  These samples are mainly used for taxonomical research.

3. Collections of the Botanic Garden

DNA samples
The rest of the sample is dried and placed in a plastic bag and deposited by RDB.  A duplicate goes to the herbarium collection in the Botanic Garden, together with a description, the field photos and a sample of the spore print.  A microscopic examination is necessary to confirm the identity of a species.

A mission day starts at dawn but seldom ends before 7p.m.

Collections for the Botanic Garden