Sierra Leone 8/9/19


Mushroom Team Blog

Today is one of the last days where we can make grow bags. Something that is important is to supply the grow bag with protein. We do this by cooking our protein source in with our substrate bags. There are many things that can be used as protein sources. In the united states we used hay but here we want to use something that is an agricultural waste product. One the sides of the roads every day for lunch people are selling barbecued corn. Marc buys some almost every day. While researching some alternatives to hay I found that you can use corn husks, peanut shells or banana fronds. All of these are widely available here. Because corn is such a common food we believe that this will be our easiest choice. We have purchased a few large bags of the stuff to test. Today we are making at least two grow bags with corn and straw substrate. The malnutrition team (go check them out at is using peanut butter in their recipes and to make this they are shucking many peanuts. Rachel graciously allowed us to use her scraps so Marc and I will be making another bag with straw and peanut shell substrate. Below is a photo of substrate right before we pasteurize it.

These bags will unfortunately have to be created tomorrow because the straw wasn’t dry, but they’re almost ready to be created either way.

I also made friends with a really cute dog named Lucky pronounced Loki. Anyone want a new pet?

Sierra Leone 8/7/19


Mushroom Team Blog

Today Marc and I created mushrooms grow bags. We sterilized straw at 160 degree or above for 45 minuets on a coal fire. After that we left our straw to dry in the mushroom house. After is was dry we sterilized all out materials and hands using gin (isopropyl is too expensive) we inoculated our grow bags. This means we added three cup fulls of Summer Oyster Mycelium (this probably amounted to 1 measuring cup).

Additionally, I ran test of the water from the faucet we are using to grow mushrooms on. The results are listed below.

Water Test Results:

Total nitrate 2.0 – 10 PPM (mg/L) much closer to 10 call it 9 

Nitrite 0 – .2 nitrite PPM  (mg/L) call it 0.0

Copper test – Between 0.0 and 0.05 PPM (MG/L) of copper call it 0.0

Lead – POSTIVE greater than 15 PPB – (second line darker than first line = constant positive, see photo below) 

pH- very low – inconsistent because total alkalinity is less than 80 ppm but shows between 2.0 and 4.0. Is not accurate. 

Total alkalinity – between 0 and 40 significantly closer to 0

Total Chlorine PPM  – between .2 and 1, call it .6

Total Hardness PPM – between 0 and 50, call it 30

We have been emailing Dr. Pecchia at Penn State and talking to other advisers about the lead levels and interpreting the rest of the tests. The bacteria test results will not be readable for another 48 hours.

The real goal of today was to show Jawara everything that we are doing. He learned some new vocabulary and is really starting to understand our process. I have no doubt that by the time we leave Jawara will be able to continue everything that Marc and I have been doing. Additionally, Emmanuel started working with us today and is eager to help progress our venture.

The mushroom structure will need more work. Marc and I have planned out a way for each section of the mushroom grow house to have different amounts of light and air circulation so we can put each grow bag in an environment that suits its needs no matter what stage in its grow cycle its in. Hopefully we will be improving the structure over our time here. Right now, we are storing our two grow bags on shelves in the conference room because it is too hot or two bright in our mushroom house rooms. With any luck the two grow bags will be colonized with mycelium within two weeks and will then be ready to be moved to our fruiting room within the mushroom house.


That’s all for today!

Sierra Leone 8/6/19


Mushroom Team Blog

Today was construction day on the mushroom team. We tracked down our carpenter Sheku and convinced him to do a little work on our structure. Right now, our mushroom house is broken into three pieces and we are fixing the first segment to work in. Yesterday, Marc and I bought black plastic to block light from coming in. Sheku is putting this on most of the structure except two of the side walls. The entire thing will be covered in green house glazing which will serve as a protective layer for the entire structure.

After our first trip to the market we realized that we had forgotten a few things, so we got a lift into the market to get scissors, nails and charcoal. We need the charcoal because we are starting our first grow bag!! To do this we needed to start a charcoal fire and fill our steel pressure cooker with straw. Heating to 160 degrees F for 45 minuets will remove most if not all the bacteria.

We are showing Jawara all the steps we do to make a grow bag. When we leave, he will be in charge of continuing to make grow bags and continuing updating our grow structure.

Today was constantly rainy and gave us a good look at some of the conditions we will have to deal with. We are thinking about adding windows to the structure to deal with the heat in the dry season but unless we could close them carefully this might damage the structure. We also are working on balancing light levels and heat levels with the amount of black plastic we use. Despite the rain we managed to complete an entire section of our structure.

The plan for tomorrow is to familiarize Jawara with the all the things mushrooms are picky about.

Sierra Leone 2019 8/5/19

Mushroom Team Blog


Today was our first day at the Office. After learning about other World Hope Ventures and meeting and networking with World Hope employees we left for a tour of the facilities feeling inspired. World Hope has been able to establish connections and reach out to help so many people in Sierra Leone. We are very grateful to be working with such a wonderful NGO. Behind the main offices of World Hope there are GRO green houses and a previously constructed mushroom facility. The structure built last year was designed and built similarly to the green house. It is a wooden 5×8 meter structure. It was originally covered by blue tarp material and underneath black plastic wrap to keep out sunlight. The blue plastic did not hold up to the weather and it now destroyed. However, the concrete and wooden parts of the structure are intact. The structure currently looks like….

The team’s goals for today is to assess the damage of the structure and come up with a new design, and source all the materials we will need to fix the suture and grow mushrooms. It is important to source materials that will be reliably available to facilitate future growth. Currently we are working under Khanjan’s recommendation to get green house glazing. The same glazing is used in the GRO houses which last 4-5 years.

Mushroom’s take 2 to 3 weeks from the start of the bag to see the fruit. Our team is only on the ground for 19 days, because of this we need to acquire materials to begin growing mushrooms quickly. Hopefully later today, after our dollars are transferred to Leones, we will walk to the nearby market and see what materials we can find and what we will have to improvise.

For example, we need coals to heat and pasteurize our substrate, we should be able to find this at the market. Another sterilization technique we use is rinsing materials in isopropyl alcohol, this likely won’t be available at a reasonable price but something like vodka would work just as well. Additionally, we need rice straw, window screening, black tarp, cereal grains and other assorted mushroom supplies.

The last goal for today is to contact rice farmers who may supply us with the ag-waste we need to create substrate bags. If we don’t have bulk substrate, we can’t grow mushrooms, but we can’t purchase this in a market. Luckily, we have arranged a ride and Jawara, Marc and I (Belle), will be heading to a farm to get rice straw. Unfortunately, for us we are really out of season for rice straw but the local people of Makeni Proper saved us. After driving to 3 or 4 different locations a few farmers told us to wait right there and brought us back three armfuls of straw. This will be enough for us to start making grow bags and teaching Jawara.

All in all, today was a packed day of organizing and getting everything we might need to grow mushrooms. In future days we will be tweaking our recipe to ensure growth and teaching Jawara everything we know.