Farmers in Nagaland are now trying their hands in Shiitake and Oyster mushroom cultivation, thanks to the efforts of microbiologist Sosang Longkumer.
Longkumer decided to cultivate Shiitake mushrooms for it being highly profitable in the market and requiring minimal labour.
One kilogram of the nutritious Shiitake mushrooms costs about Rs 500 to 600 per kg in the market and is mostly grown in East Asia.
Longkumer established a small mushroom spawn production laboratory in Dimapur in 2018 as mushroom spawns were not easily available in Nagaland.
Even government laboratories produced these spawns during winter.
The mushroom spawn production laboratory ensured that spawns were available throughout the year for cultivation.
The Naga scientist was engaged in months of research to successfully grow the Shiitake mushrooms.
He was elated when he noticed the first fruit spawn sprouting in October 2019 and there was no looking back for him.
In the past year Longkumar’s through his venture, Konger Agritech produced 20,00,000 Shiitake dowel spawns, and 25,000 kg of Oyster mushroom spawns.
It was a challenge by a senior scientist at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) that made him take up mushroom cultivation
“Senior scientist and my former colleague Rajesh at ICAR had challenged me to grow mushroom cultures and make spawns inside the laboratory in 2010. I succeeded in growing mushroom cultures and spawns by applying my knowledge of microbiology and applied genetics,” said Longkumar.
It was on the advice of Rajesh that he ventured into mushroom cultivation and set up a laboratory to help farmers in Nagaland.
He also attended an entrepreneurship programme conducted by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 2011.
“Mushrooms are a great source of nutrition and their cultivation requires minimal labour. It can be adopted by every household in Nagaland,” says Longkumer.
However, the real challenge was to convince local farmers to take up Shiitake mushroom cultivation as they knew nothing about it.
Longkumer has so far trained 500 farmers and also offered them a buyback policy for their mushrooms, which increased their interest.
Konger Agrictech’s network comprises of approximately 200 independent Shiitake farmers, 300 independent Oyster mushroom farmers and multiple self-help groups.
“We guide the farmers from the moment they procure spawns to the time they harvest. Each variety and place requires a different approach based on the climatic conditions,” a report quoted Longkumeras saying.
Konger Agrictech also has a Whatsapp group where farmers communicate actively, share reviews, feedbacks and information daily.
Longkumer has tied up with the Nagaland department of forests and environment under the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) project for mushroom farming.
Pilot projects have been initiated in Noksen village in Tuensang district, Touphema in Kohima district, and Mopungchuket in Mokokchung district.