Entrepreneurship development through Mushroom production

Dr Sumitra Phurailatpam
In North East Hill Region (NEH) of India mushrooms have been consumed since time immemorial. In the present diet conscious era, mushrooms are increasingly considered as a future vegetable. People used to eat a variety of edible mushrooms that grew wild in the region. There had been a systemic research on standardization of spawn and mushroom production technology undertaken by different colleges under Central Agricultural University, Imphal, Manipur. Technologies for commercial production has been demonstrated through trainings and farm demonstrations to farmers.
Due to favorable climatic conditions, profitability and potential of income generation, mushroom cultivation can be one of the highly suitable options for local entrepreneur development and employment generation. Mushrooms are grown indoors and thus rooms of locally made bamboo huts can be raised on otherwise unproductive waste land such as slopes. Demand for the mushrooms is already there in North East, other parts of country and in neighboring countries. The significant advantages of NEH Region with respect to varied climate conditions (5-35°C) which is suitable for growing different species of mushroom, high humidity (>60%) abundant agro wastes (paddy straw, chicken manure etc.), excellent domestic market and access to the neighboring countries (Myanmar, China and others) as well as popularity of mushroom food with North East people indicated the high potential of this venture in NEH Region.
Mushroom cultivation is an eco-friendly activity as it utilizes the wastes from agriculture, poultry, etc. which are available in huge quantities in every corner of the State and in turn produces fruiting bodies with excellent nutritional and medicinal attributes. At present the areas with rice cropping system of India is facing tough challenge to handle the mounting crop residues. Mushroom cultivation can effectively utilize these agro residues for production of protein rich food and plays crucial role in management of these agro residues. There is ample scope for mushroom industry to thrive successfully and can become a lucrative business for the unemployed rural youth, self-help groups, farm women and an additional income source for the farmer.
Cultivation technologies of many exotic mushrooms were standardized, but the commercial markets are still dominated by Agaricusbisporus (Button), Pleurotus (Oyster) spp. and Volvariellavolvacea (Paddy straw). These three mushrooms are contributing about 96% of total mushroom produced in India. In North Eastern States, oyster mushroom cultivation is emerging as one of the leading cottage industries.
Different types of mushroom have different production cost and it is important to decide on a budget depending on amount of money available and the long term investment benefit. A good variety to start mushroom farming with- is the oyster mushroom. Simple cultivation technology of oyster mushroom, low production cost and adaptability attributes make this mushroom most widely cultivated throughout the country. Bioconversion ability is highest i.e. more than 60%. Moderate range of temperature 20-30 degree C and 80-85% humidity supports good growth of this mushroom. Especially in the North East region the growing season of oyster mushroom is longer. It can be grown for ten months or almost throughout the year.
Marketing of Mushroom
Majority of the mushrooms growers fail to make profits out of their mushroom production activity due to the poor marketing strategy. Marketing of mushrooms in India is not yet organised. It is the simple system of producers selling directly to retailer or even to consumer, which has its own limitations. Here are some approaches for successful marketing:
· Exploring various marketing options for fresh mushrooms – depending on transport infrastructure, selling directly to local customers, local traders, markets, intermediaries, regional wholesalers, local restaurants, shops or farmer cooperatives.
· Adding value and increasing the shelf-life of the mushrooms by creating processed products, including dried or pickled mushrooms, sauces, teas, extracts, etc.
·  Becoming organized and teaming-up with other producers, to bulk up on volume and the variety of mushrooms, and attract traders regularly to enable reliable sales of the perishable produce
· Identifying existing markets and trading routes, and identifying any niches to be filled (for example, organic mushrooms, fair trade or cooperative produce).
The probable reasons or weaknesses in the development of flourishing mushroom industry like non availability of funds, poor harvest management and marketing, untapped potentialities in spite of abundant availability of raw materials, cheap labour force, suitability of agro-climatic conditions and the local germplasm being unexploited  which can be turned into opportunities in this resourceful region. Mushroom cultivation, on the other hand, is still in its infancy, with just a small percentage of the farming population involved in small-scale seasonal production.The availability of high-quality spawn, processing facilities, and marketing issues are all important topics to investigate and learn about. Improper product promotion, the idea that all mushrooms are harmful, a lack of understanding about their nutritional and therapeutic worth, a shorter shelf life, a lack of processing facilities, transportation issues, and a high price are some of the primary issues in the mushroom industry.
There is immense potential for mushroom production in the region, all edible and medicinal mushrooms and pave the way for growth of entrepreneurs thereby improving the living standards especially of the rural mass. There are different schemes going on in organizations like MIDH, financial institute like NABARD providing financial assistance for improving living standards through mushroom cultivation.
So, we can conclude that mushroom cultivation is a best option for Agripreneruship and also as integration in Integrated farming system which in addition to provide quality food, generates income by utilizing the byproducts of primary agriculture.  The writer is Assistant Professor (Plant Protection), MTTC& VTC, COA, CAU, Imphal mail: [email protected] Public Relations & Media Management Cell, CAU, Imphal.