Kigali Farms was dreamed up in late 2009. Laurent Demuynck, then CEO of high-end microbrewery Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York, visited Rwanda on a life-changing, fact-finding mission. "Malnutrition is rife throughout the region, with terrible effects on millions of lives," he was told. "If you want to do something useful, focus on malnutrition."
In early 2010, Anne-Claire Vanfleteren moved to Rwanda to investigate whether mushrooms, this little known crop, could actually make a difference with Rwanda's malnutrition issues. Certainly the Rwandan government thought so: with much foresight, the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI), assisted by the Chinese Cooperation Agency, had been promoting oyster mushroom cultivation for years, as a source of both income and nutrition. Small Rwandan entrepreneurs and cooperatives were enthusiastically picking up the trade. Highly valued, mushrooms were sold for 1500 to 2500 RWF per kilogram. Their nutritional qualities and health benefits were widely accepted.
It is within this fertile ground that Laurent and Anne-Claire committed to developing the mushroom industry and exploiting its full potential, founding Kigali Farms for this purpose. After all, the worldwide mushroom industry is worth 20 billion USD, yet it is no more than a cottage industry in Africa, a huge untapped market.
Mushrooms grow on agricultural waste product, abundant in East Africa's highly agricultural economy. With years of government support, awareness campaigns, a highly compatible environment, a cool climate, plenty of water, thousands of hectares of wheat fields providing just the right amount of raw material, and scores of farmers, entrepreneurs and cooperatives eager to work hard to rebuild their community and find new sources of income, Rwanda had many of the necessary competitive advantages to become a leader in mushroom production within East Africa.
Kigali Farms was formally founded in September 2010, to turn this vision into reality. We have become the largest suppliers of oyster mushroom substrate in Rwanda. We are also the largest supplier of fresh mushrooms in Rwanda, thanks to our mushroom buy-back commitment to our substrate customers.
Our substrate farm operates out of Byumba, Gicumbi District, in the Northern Province, where our 30 employees prepare between 5 to 10 tons of substrate blends every week, then pasteurize and inoculate them with high quality mushroom spawn, before incubating them for three weeks.
Our mushroom re-purchase and sales office operates out of Kicukiro, Kigali. From there we distribute over a ton of fresh mushrooms to markets, restaurants, supermarkets and retail customers every month.
In late 2012, we were honored to be named a winner of the prestigious business plan competition created by the African Enterprise Challenge Fund. This will allow us to expand our operations and lower our costs of production, and pass the savings along to mushroom growers and mushrooms lovers all over Rwanda. Our new plant will be based in Musanze. Stay tuned for more History soon!