Augetto Craig - Namibia has recently gotten a first of its kind urban farm when Jonathan Calitz and Anitta Voland decided that they want to grow mushrooms and micro-greens in Prosperita, Windhoek and started Namib Fungi.
This small start-up company currently grows oyster mushrooms and 14 different varieties micro-greens, using products of the growing biomass industry in Namibia, the chopped up wood from bush clearing operations.
Senior journalist Augetto Craig conducted an interview with Jonathan Calitz and Anitta Voland to learn more about this inspiring initiative.
Tell us more about your company?
Namib Fungi is an urban farm aimed at producing environmentally friendly and sustainable food products while also realising Namibia is a water scarce country, and one of our goals is to produce food items with as minimal of a water footprint as possible.
How do you do it and what equipment or facilities do you use?
As mentioned above, it is an urban farm. This means we grow inside of an indoor structure or a warehouse in an urban environment. We utilize structures specifically designed for growing mushroom and plants in an indoor environment, as well as advanced growing techniques, such as double isolation chambers combined with positive pressure atmosphere conditions. All this allows us to grow in conditions that are non-conducive for mould and bacteria, resulting in non-contaminated products grown – without the use of pesticides.
When did you start?
Officially, we launched in July when we made our social media page and reached out to various companies and people with our products. Operations started in February this year.
Tell us more about your products?
We offer micro-greens, as well as oyster mushrooms, soon to be expanded to various other edible mushroom varieties.
How has the local market received your products?
Reception has gone quite well! The clients we currently cater to have sung nothing but praise for our micro-greens. The mushrooms are still at an individual service level, with expansions planned for the next 4 to 6 months.
Even at an individual level, they have been received extremely well.
The vegan and vegetarian population of Windhoek in particular have been the most repetitive buyers. Oyster mushrooms are a fantastic meat alternative in terms of flavour and texture, on top of being super delicious, so it is no surprise they have loved the mushrooms. We specifically wanted to cater to the vegan population of Namibia as there are not many vegan friendly alternatives in Namibia, and we wanted to be able to help fulfil their needs.
What health benefits do your products offer?
Micro-greens are nutritionally dense and high in vitamins and minerals. You just need to consume small quantities at a time to receive the benefits of the micro-greens. Gram for gram, micro-greens have up to 40 times more vitamins and minerals than their adult counterparts!
Oyster mushrooms are also nutritionally dense while being low in calories and sodium, as well as having a 0% cholesterol content. Per 100g serving, they contain 33 calories, 6.1g of carbohydrates (1.1g being sugar and 2.3g dietary fibre), 3.3g of protein and 18mg of sodium.
The most notable aspects of the oyster mushroom’s nutritional content is the following:
- Niacin (nicotinic acid, a form of vitamin B3) which is an essential human nutrient. Per 100g serving, it contains 31% of the daily recommended amount (DRA) for adults.
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2), another essential nutrient for humans. Per 100g serving, it contains 21% of the DRA for adults.
- Pantotheic acid (vitamin B5), 13% of the DRA.
- Thiamine (vitamin B1), 8% of the DRA.
What are the price range of your products?
The micro-greens have a wide range of prices, dependent on which micro-green product is bought.
Oyster mushrooms currently sell for N$120.00 per kilogram, or N$30.00 per 250g portion. Once the scale of the mushroom farm has expanded we intend for the prices to drop and thus be more affordable in the tough economic times.
What are your plans for the foreseeable future?
We plan to expand the mushroom production towards a commercially viable scale, so our products will be available at retailers as well as found in the food of restaurants and caterers. Our micro-greens are already available at the Grove Super Spar.
We also plan to expand the mushroom product range to include more species such as shiitake mushrooms and mushroom products such as mushroom soup powder.
The micro-greens are at a good state at the moment and the plans for them are to keep expanding the product range to suit our client’s needs as well as acquire new clients.
We can be reached on social media (Facebook: Namib Fungi/Instagram: nambifungi ) where we post awesome food ideas that incorporate our products, have our contact information and images of our products. For more information, contact Jonathan Calitz (+264 81 583 3508) or email us at [email protected]