Success Story

Know How This Scientist’s Exotic Mushroom is Helping Farmers Expand their Business

Sangeeta Soni
Sangeeta Soni

Mushrooms are speedily making their space in Indian grocery markets. And a mushroom named Shiitake Mushroom, mostly grown in East Asia is now beingcultivated in North-eastern state of Nagaland. And for this, credit goes to Dr Sosang Longkumer, 37-year-old microbiologist, who established a small mushroom production laboratory in Dimapur back in early 2018.  

After his research, Dr. Sosang saw the first fruit spawn in October 2019. After feeling so happy with the results, he posted a picture on his Instagram account with the caption, “So elated to see the exotic shiitake mushrooms in full bloom in Nagaland. Hoping this brings a new chapter of Shiitake mushroom farming in Nagaland.” 

After then, he trained near to 500 farmers about Shiitake and Oyster mushroom cultivation through his start-up, Konger Agritech.  

One thing to mention is that, this start-up has generated around 20,00,000 Shiitake dowel spawns, and 25,000 kgof Oyster mushroom spawns also.  

Now comes the part of challenge…!! 

Dr. Sosang Longkumer said, “My interest in mushrooms began when Dr. Rajesh, a senior scientist and my former colleague at Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) unit in Nagaland, challenged me to grow mushroom cultures and make spawns inside the laboratory. This was sometime in 2010, and I was working as a research associate. Backed with my knowledge of microbiology and applied genetics, I completed the challenge. Dr. Rajesh was impressed by the quality of my mushroom spawns and advised me to set up a spawn production lab to help farmers grow mushrooms all through the year. Mushroom farming is a profitable venture with low investment and early returns. It can be a full-time or an alternative source of income. Subsequently, I attended an entrepreneurship programme by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 2011.” 

Even after scarcity of mushroom spawns in Nagaland, Dr. Longkumer took it upon himself to set up the lab and arranged all the requirements for spawn production. And it’s also a proven fact that Shiitake mushrooms fetches great prices in the market (Nearly Rs. 500 to 600 per kg) with minimum labour requirement.  

After then comes one more Challenge…!! 

We talked about scientific challenges faced by Dr. Longkumer. But one more real challenge for him was to convince farmers in Dimapur district to take up Shiitake mushroom farming, as they didn’t know much about it. He encourages farmers for growing small volumes and also strted a series of training sessions. Dr. Longkumer also offered them a buyback policy for their mushrooms, which really got the farmers to buy into it.  

Whether it’s about climatic conditions requirement or sharing any knowledge about mushroom farming, Dr. Longkumer tried to guide farmers at each and every step.  

Apart from all this, one more objective was to encourage a breed of entrepreneurs who can collectively contribute to building the economy of the state through farming, calling them ‘Mushroom-preneurs’

At present, Konger Agritech has nearly 200 independent Shiitake farmers, 300 independent Oyster farmers and multiple self-help groups in its network. They have tied up with the Department of Forests and Environment, Nagaland under the Japan International Cooperation Agency project for mushroom farming. They have also tied up with the Nagaland State Rural Livelihood Mission (NSRLM) which is the implementing agency for National Rural Livelihood Mission in the state.  

Growing Process of Shiitake Mushroom 

Dr. Longkumer said, “For the production of Spawn, we tissue culture a part of Shiitake mushrooms tissues under appropriate laboratory conditions. Once the fungus grows well, we transfer them to a wood dowel and incubate it at appropriate temperatures for 15-20 days in the fungus culture room. In this time, the fungus colonises the wood dowel, and it finally becomes a wood dowel spawn. This wood dowel spawn is purchased by the farmers (Rs. 2 per wood dowel excluding transportation costs) and used to inoculate another wooden log measuring 5-8 inches in diameter and 3-foot long. The fungus then gets transferred to these wood logs and slowly colonises them. This process takes near to 7 months in softwood and 12 months in hardwood, following which they are ready to generate fruit.”  

Future Plans 

This is only the beginning, and they are looking to increase the number of ‘mushroom-preneurs’ in the coming years. Dr. longkumer also mentioned that, “We want to make Nagaland the go-to-market for exotic mushrooms. It may start as a side hustle, but one day it could become the full-time business.” 

To read more success stories like this and get motivated to improve your farming practices, Stay Connected…!! 

Source- TheBetterIndia 

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