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.


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.

Blog post #6

Though I thought that our presentation last week went well there are things that I can do to improve our next presentation. I was incredibly nervous for our first presentation. I think the fact that I have had one under my belt will help me. In order to be less nervous I think I will practice my part in a bigger room, ideally the one the presentation will be given in(1). This will help with my nerves but also with the sound of my voice. Sometimes I talk to quietly for people in the back of the room to hear me(2). On top of this I would like to practice motion while talking(3). I feel that it is less awkward than standing in one place while presenting and also helps the viewers see how invested you are in what you’re talking about. Another thing that should help me sound more genuine would be memorizing less(4). I want to look and sound as comfortable as possible while being relaxed enough to give an informative presentation.

Material wise there are a few areas I would focus on. It seemed that people missed the reason why we were growing mushrooms. I would focus on this area more(5). For the next presentation I also want to focus on the order that we present information. I feel we could be more cohesive in informing our audience. I think our group was afraid to reformat our structure for our presentation and next time we should try and finish our slides earlier so we have more time to rearrange our items(6). Something else that will be easier for our next presentation will be the visuals. I think we didn’t give the viewers enough to interact with on the screen. Including photos of ourselves and what we are doing will enhance the presentation(7).

I felt that the responses to our presentations went we. We all had good things to add to the questions. However, I don’t think its necessary for all of us to have input on questions. Talking less would allow for us to answer more questions. We should focus on the most consequence way to answer the questions given to us instead of giving more complicated answers(8). On top of this my group didn’t spend enough time thinking of what questions we would be asked. We should do more of that for next presentation(9). I thought that our business model would be the focus of the questions when in fact the mushroom topic was much more questioned. I would also like to learn more about the judges. There were a few members of the audience who were familiar with our project but that I didn’t know. I think knowing at least the names and jobs of the people who are asking us the most questions would be helpful(10).

Another topic discussed in seminar was IRB strategy. My my focus on my venture right now is growing mushrooms. In this way our work does not require IRB strategy because we are  not working with humans. On top of this our venture is not aimed at research or research related goals.

In our logic model for our venture we have outlined what we need and what we aim to achieve. Our inputs include money from world hope, and agriculture waste such as rice straw to use as substrate, other materials we need to build our mushroom houses, and plugs. Our outputs will be the mushrooms themselves, and jobs. The desired outcomes are a higher quality of life, a more nourished diet, and to stimulate the economy. All of these can be achieved whether we sell mushroom houses or start our own venture producing mushrooms. We can measure our success based on the profit we create, the amount of mushrooms we sell, and the salary of our employees.

Blog #5


In the seminar on the 18th we learned about design processes. We learned about how engineers tend to think of things more methodically and thus less creatively than “designers”. I don’t really think that this stereotype would apply to me. I like to think that I am very flexible when it comes to ideas and adapting thoughts that I have previously had. However, carefully documenting all our work in the mushroom making process is very important to me. The reason for this is because I would want to know what steps to tinker with. So while I think I would find it very easy to start fresh and adapt new ideas I would never do so without a reason, without there being a variable that I would want to test. I like to work with my hands and jump into projects quickly. The quicker the start the better. However, I really have a thing against being told what to do. Even with simple menial labor I need to know the end goal or the purpose of what I am doing. I feel this makes me a more effective worker. This carries through to how I will expect to work with others in Sierra Leone.

I plan on validating my teams concept model through what I mentioned above. It is extremely important to me that we know exactly why what we are doing is working (or isn’t working). If we know the direct causes of success or failure and why they lead to that we should be able to justify anything we do. For example if we are telling people that they have to use sorghum grain to grow their mushrooms then I want there to be reason behind that. That it is the best grain for the purposes we need it to fulfill. I think this will help our team become the most effective it can be. If we question why we are doing things it will give us a better understanding of our project.

I hope that this will foster trust between my team and the communities we work in. I don’t want the people we work with to feel like our students. They are our partners. I don’t want to give them a list of instructions and send them out on their own. I think it would be far more productive for both sides to our team to teach them what we do and more importantly why we do it. This way our partners can understand why we chose the model and now feel the need to alter it ( maybe for the worse) without us. It will also enable them to teach others if we are able to communicate effectively enough. Not to mention if people know why they are doing something it makes them better, and more effective at doing it. This is my personal philosophy at least. If we tell a farmer in Sierra Leone that sorghum grain is the best at spawning mushrooms in because we have found that it dries the quickest and this farmer knows of a grain that dries even quicker than sorghum then we are all the better for it. If we simply have them sorghum grain without any extra information the project would never be improved.


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