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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?

Blog #10

Design Grants

The USAID Development Innovation Ventures Stage 1 Proof of Concept grant is a good grant for us to apply to because its open for applications at any time and awards up to $200,000 for up to 3 years for testing a creative solution to a global development challenge. Our proposal would focus on our current research and projections of how much money the mushroom farm could make and how many people it can offer jobs to along with plans for scaling up.

EPA P3 Program which stands for People, Prosperity and the Planet promotes teams of college students to better the planet and future for doing research in topics related to their P3 goals, including sustainable healthy communities, which relates to our project. We would first be applying for Phase 1 of the grant which is a one year grant of $25,000 to test, research, and develop innovative scientific projects or engineering designs that promote development, and serves as a proof of concept for research ideas. Completing Phase 1 would allow us to apply for the Phase 2 grant which is 100,000 to further the project from Phase 1. Our funding proposal would emphasize the sustainability of growing mushrooms and how it will create a healthier community by creating jobs along with delivering a nutritious product. Though we applied to it before and were rejected, we would hone in on what we’ve accomplished and relate it to sustainable healthy communities more.

Dissemination Grants

The USAID Development Innovation Ventures Stage 3 Scaling would be for the scaling of our mushroom production factories. It provides between $1,500,000 to $5,000,000 for up to 3 years. With success, this grant fits the goals of our venture to spread its success. For applying, we would use data from the success of the single mushroom production factory in Sierra Leone for the proof of concept and scalability as well as demand to show success possibilities with scaling with the grant.

The Laidlaw Scaling Impact grants range from $25,000 to $100,000 a year for up to 3 years. They support youth projects that impact communities and that overall better the lives of young people. With our venture hoping to better the youth unemployment rate in Sierra Leone, that is what we would be targeting in the application. With proof of concept with one factory, we will show the need and anticipated success with scaling which would also give more job opportunities to the unemployed youth.


Blog #10/11

This week for our blog post we are tasked with analyzing a company, Mia and I chose One Acre Fund, and creating a business model canvas for the company we chose. The aspects of a business model canvas are: Partner network, key actives, key resources, value propositions/offers, customer relationships, customer segments, channels, cost structure, and revenue streams.

Our analysis of the One Acre Fund goes as follows,



Citations through links:


Blog #9

  1. List five take-aways from Guy Kawasaki’s talk and explain exactly how you will integrate that concept/construct/strategy into your project.

Guy Kawasaki used the phrase “let 100 flowers blossom”.  Going into Sierra Leone I worry that our team has only one idea in our heads for how our product will be sold. A big piece of what we are doing is adapting our processes to work in Sierra Leone. If there is one lesson that we need to be aware of, and embody, it is this idea of “let 100 flowers blossom”. Pivot.

Another idea that Kawasaki brought up is the simple idea of marketing. He used interested anecdotes to make the ideas stick. I’ll be the first to admit that business is not my strong suit. It’s not an area that I have a lot of background in. However, after watching the talk I think I have a better idea of how our team’s venture can be successful.

Despite being an optimist I often doubt not in the project, but in myself. The portion of the talk where Kawasaki said “don’t let the bozo’s get you down” made me think about my own attitude about our project. As long as I am dedicated to our work, there is no reason why I cannot make progress. I shouldn’t let the planning get in the way of the actual doing. My own self doubt, being the ‘bozo’, should not get me down.

Another piece of advice that will be helpful for our team if not our project is the 10-20-30 rule. I noticed that we got too caught up in the things we planned to say to say what we meant to say. I think the less slides and the less words we will have on our slides the more freedom we will have to talk about a project that we know so much about. We have been doing the work, and documenting our process, it shouldn’t be difficult to present what we have done. We are the infected people that Kawasaki mentioned. We simply have to have a conversation about our passions.

Lastly, and of utmost importance, MAT! Simple and easy to understand, I honestly think that the MAT ideology will make our venture a success. Milestones, assumptions, and tasks. Right now the milestone is getting a grow bag to begin, the assumption that we need to test is that our methods and process for spawn jars here will also work in Sierra Leone, and our task is to make sure that our assumption is correct, and more importantly to have backups in case it is not. This simple idea really helps focus a team and insure that the energy that we are putting into the project is being allocated to the parts of the venture that need it in the most. It’s all about productivity.

  1. In partnership with one or at most two team members, present a business model canvas for your venture.

Blog Post #7/8


Our target customer varies depending on which business model my team uses. One being selling the MPS and mushroom growing knowledge to entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone and the other being starting our own venture and employing those looking for employment, not necessarily to start their own venture. At the beginning at least. my team agrees that it would be easiest to start the venture ourselves, and expand from there. This would mean that our original target customers would be local markets and super markets. We would also be looking to appeal to people looking for a steady source of income.  We should take into account that we will be hiring and selling. This introduces two sort of markets that we will need to tap. I think the main assumptions that we should make are not to stereotype. To have as few expectations of this going into the project as we can. I believe that we will be pleasantly surprised by work ethic and eagerness to accomplish goals, however take this with a grain of salt because I am an optimist.


The most important hypotheses that will be tested upon arriving is that mushrooms will more or less sell themselves if they are made available. Another is that the mushroom house that was built last summer will be easy to repair, and more importantly that it is what we want. I have some concerns about the ventilation of the hut and the dark color will only make things worse. The drying of the grains has been done by hand up until this point and it is possible that the humidity in Sierra Leone will make this more or less impossible. We will also need to test a few materials. I think it would be interesting to run a water test and see what type of fungus lives in water. Using water to wash things may be an ineffective way of doing things. This may or may not lead to the need for isopropal alcohol and I do not know how abundant this product is in Sierra Leone.

3. What do you think you bring to your team? How has your perception of your own strengths and weaknesses changed over the course of the class? Please be specific.

I seem to have taken on the role of “organizer” or “secretary” in my team. This plays to my strengths of liking things organized and clear. If you don’t have a real purpose than you can’t really accomplish anything. I also have a fresh set of eyes and enjoy learning by doing so I think I have a fresh take on our work which can be helpful while we are determining where to go with our procedure. I am aware of my weaknesses also. “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough” is a phrase that I need to be aware of. I am also optimistic to a fault occationally so I will need to learn that it is okay to pivot.

Presentation Seminar – Blog #3

  1. Describe the five major stakeholders for your project and their motivations

Stake holders for the Mushroom Project (which definitely needs a cooler name) include: Khanjan Mheta our adviser, the team of students including myself working on the project, possible MPS owners in Sierra Leone, The World Hope organization who are our partners on the ground, and project founders namely Lehigh University. The motivations of the stake holders differ depending on which side of the  project they are on. Khanjan Mheta and the team of students are motivated by the fact that we own the project and have goals in mind that we want our project accomplish to help people, and also impress our other stakeholders. Our funders and supporters like Lehigh University have similar motivations to our team but they exists more in the background. They give us money to accomplish a project that they believe will be successful, and it is our teams job to make it successful and the meet the expectations that made them feel our venture was worth investing in. On the other side of the spectrum the possible MPS owners are simply economically motivated. They want the product that we sell them to grow successfully and be marketable and they support our project because it will be economically beneficial for them.  The World Hope Organization’s motivation comes from the fact that this is what their organization does. They are in Sierra Leone to do humanitarian work.  Though all the stake holders had slightly different reasons they entered the venture we are now all in it together to make sure that it succeeds and accomplishes all its goals. This leads me to the next prompt….

  1. Describe three ways in which you will validate your project and enhance your credibility over the course of the semester.

The main way that I personally want to validate my project is by learning everything there is to know about mushrooms. The project shouldn’t fail because my team and I didn’t do enough research enough to know enough about mushrooms to make them grow. The second step of course would be to produce positive results, that is have a reliable way to turn plugs into mushrooms. Just accomplishing this seemingly tiny step would really give the venture the momentum it needs to take off. Once we have the mushrooms the rest of the venture will seem more like ironing out wrinkles than (not to mix metaphor’s too much) climbing mountains.

Once we have the momentum of being able to produce results it is important to me that we optimize all aspects of our project to make it as successful as possible in Sierra Leone. A worry I have is temperature at materials. I want to get the least expensive and most available materials we can while still allowing mushrooms to easily grow in the hot environment we will encounter in Sierra Leone.  It’s important to me that whatever solution my team and I find for the mushroom growing problem that we understand it enough to translate it effectively to Sierra Leone and make the process as smooth and seamless as we can.

To this end I think that writing down each step of our process will be very important. Knowing what works and what doesn’t and more importantly WHY will be essential to teaching others in Sierra Leone about our processes and why we grow mushrooms the way that we do. If we can educate others on our work they will not only be able to mimic what we do and have success but I would imagine that while we know more about mushrooms those we will be working with will know more about Sierra Leone and if we can combine these two fields of expertise we should have a very successful venture; and that is my goal.

On top of helping others I think researching, growing, and writing down our process, will enhance the credibility of our group. We will have to prove to others that we have accomplished something and beyond the physical proof of the mushrooms that I aim to grow I want to be able to instruct others about how to get there. Our end result of marketable mushrooms won’t be through dumb luck, our venture will be documented and precise which will help optimize our results throughout all aspects of the project.