Times of India, Nagpur: Innovation, experimentation and hard work go hand in hand at the Thangavel farm on Hingna Road. In the past four years or so, the family has taken up innovative farming of dates, strawberries and quails, along with conventional agriculture. Next on their menu are oyster mushrooms.
Oyster milky mushroom, that the Thangavels are growing, is one of the easiest to grow. It requires minimal investment and the profit is at least three fold. Oyster mushrooms have a very high nutritive value, especially the protein content. The only extra effort a farmer has to make in growing mushrooms is getting the seed or the spawn from Pune. But this, too, has become very simple. You have to just order with the firm and have the spawn delivered in Nagpur.
"I see mushrooms as a viable and profitable venture for farmers who have no extra source of income in case of failure of their conventional crop. I wish every small farmer takes it up. Why should a farmer ever think of suicide? There are so many such options of alternative crops," says 61-year-old Savi Thangavel, the family head.
Savi's wife Kanaklata, a retired nursing teacher, has taken upon herself the task of ensuring good health for the crop as well. "While my husband keeps busy with demonstrating the cultivation technology to farmers who visit us round the clock, my daughter Shona and I see that the temperature (25-30degrees) and a humidity of 65-70% is maintained. All we need to do is just keep moist gunny bags to create a room-like structure. Oyster mushrooms do not need intensive efforts at all," says Kanaklata.
Shona, who also assists her father in answering the visitors' queries, says that she can give a ready-to-harvest pack for anyone interested in growing mushrooms at home. All you has to do is hang it from the roof in your kitchen. "Ours is 100% organic cultivation. We use just wheat straw as food substrate to grow mushrooms. The straw is soaked in water and boiled to decontaminate it. The straw is packed into a plastic bag and the spawn is introduced in each bag. The creamy, oyster shaped mushrooms begin to pop out from all over the bag in about 24 days of the hanging basket. One such basket can give three crops of the mushrooms," explains Shona.
Thangavel's son Swaran and daughter-in-law Vandana too have a role to play in the mushroom cultivation. They have to harvest the crop, weigh it and pack it. "We have never been engaged in any formal marketing plan. Luckily, our farm is well placed. All Nagpurians visiting Bor sanctuary or on a drive around the city just drop in for curiosity sake first time and end up buying a lot of our produce," says a proud Swaran.
Those who are not aware of the nutritive value of mushrooms or have not developed a taste for them as yet can approach Vandana who not just sells the mushrooms to you but also shares the recipes. With the crop that goes unsold, the Thangavels dry the mushrooms, powder them and preserve them for use in soups or other dishes. The family just puts in Rs10 /kg of investment as seed in addition to the straw and sells the mushrooms at about Rs250/kg.
Anurag Goyal, a young entrepreneur from the city, also grows mushrooms, but, as compared to the Thangavels, the cultivation method for button mushrooms is very high-tech. It not only requires a lot of care but also huge investment and space. Since these mushrooms are susceptible to various diseases, they need to be grown in a very hygienic environment.
"I don't engage in retail marketing. Even otherwise, only 6% of our produce is sold in the city. I have appointed dealers in the city as well as across the country. Metros like Mumbai, Bangalore, and Kolkata are my biggest markets. Bhopal and Indore too give good business," says Goyal. However, he refrains from sharing details about the cultivation technology, profit margins, investments etc not just from customers but also media. He was reluctant to give photographs of the mushroom. He believes that it draws unnecessary enquiries and creates uncalled for problems.
Anurag's father Sanjan started the business in 2008. Being a biotechnology graduate, Anurag took over the project within a year. The Goyals now produce about 3 tonne/day of button mushrooms in their Gumthala unit in Kamptee tehsil. "Since button mushroom cultivation is technology intensive, I took specialized training in Himachal Pradesh where it is grown at large scale," said Anurag.
Rishi Goyal, second son of Sanjan Goyal, says that button mushrooms have a variety of nutrients. Besides they are also known to slow down the process of cancer cell formation. "Above all it is great weight loss food with 80-90% water content and high fibre, an excellent source of potassium and heart healthy copper," he said.
Head: A healthy yield
* Wheat straw or any other straw is crushed, boiled at about 80 degrees for two hours, allowed to cool down and then spawn is added to it
* One kg compost is filled into polythene bags and plugged with non-absorbent cotton
* Bags are hung from bamboo or other sticks and spawn is introduced in it
* Temperature of 20-33 degrees C is maintained by wetting the gunny bag walls. Humidity is maintained by wetting the floor. (Thangavels are growing mushrooms over vermin-compost pits which helps in maintaining humidity)
* In 20-25 days, the crop emerges. Three crops can be harvested from each bang in a week's gap
* Calories 28 cal/cup, 0.35 gm of fat, 2.85 gm protein and 3 gm of fibre
* Vitamin D-166.67%, Vitamin B2-23.0%, Vit B3- 26.64%, copper 23.33%, Vitamin B5-22.26%
* Helps in maintaining blood sugar, immunity, cardiovascular conditions, skin and brain health
* Other nutrients include 361 mg potassium, 0.095 gm Vit B6 and 33 microgram folate in one cup of raw oyster
* Has antioxidant and anti bacterial properties
BUTTON MUSHROOM CULTIVATION
* Spawn production | Stock culture may be produced in lab or procured from reputed growers
* Compost preparation | In long-term method, paddy straws are placed in layers and water is poured on it along with fertilizers, wheat bran, molasses, and then stackedThe stacks are turned and watered. On 12th day it gives ammonia like smell. In short-term process, pasteurization is done to kill undesired microbes and competitors. Process is done in a steaming room at 600 degrees C for 4 hours. The substrate is later cooled down to 250 degrees
· Spawning | Mixing of spawn (seed) is done. It involves techniques like spot spawning, and surface and layer spawning
· Then the compost is filled in polythene bags. A soil casing is done over it
· Fruiting occurs at 23-20 degrees, with 92-3 light sprays of water per day, keeping humidity at 85%, proper ventilation and CO2 concentration
· Harvesting done at bottom stage with 2.5 to 4cm
It is rich in niacin, riboflavin, folate, phosphorous, iron, panthoneic acid, zinc, potassium, copper, magnesium, vitamin B6, selenium and thiamin.
Courtesy : Times of India