Agro aspirations

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Can mushrooms bring back fortunes for entrepreneurs?

For any innovative entrepreneurs, who are looking for an alternative from the traditional avenues and scope for entrepreneur, mushroom cultivation might just be the answer to your prayers.

It is the land of the rivers, a nation with a low land mass but the highest population density in the world. The population is growing; some socialists call the growing population a disadvantage, arguing that it adds to the chaotic scene and a stretch of natural resources and land entitlement.

On the other hand many economists refer the population growth as an advantage, after all it adds to our stock of human capital, although the quality of such human resources is severely at question. Currently the whole nation on an average is suffering from protein malnutrition. Further due to the frequency of natural calamities and livestock diseases including bird flu, swine flu, and the passing contagious anthrax and the likes, fueled further by high cost of conventional agricultural production, Bangladesh is at a desperate stage of seeking alternative sources of protein with a potential ability of generating income.

In this situation the simple solution of mushroom cultivation holds out a very generous hand opening a wide door for opportunities for innovative entrepreneurship.

How is started and where it is?

Tracing back to the history of mushroom cultivation, it can be dated back to 1979, when JOCDV, a Japanese organization provided assistance to initiate this innovative agri business. Later the assistance was extended by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) although in the 1990s following a withdrawal of JICA assistance, the cultivation of mushroom rapidly decreased. In 2003 the government decided to revamp the mushroom cultivation sector, and as a result Mushroom Development Project was introduced under the department of agricultural extension. Currently there are 13 species being cultivated, among which oyster mushrooms are produced on a commercial scale.

Entrepreneur across Savar, Dinajpur, Jessore, Barishal, Chittagong, Sylhet, Comilla, Khulna, and Rangpur are talking initiative, under the project to uplift their economic conditions. Carrying out a cost and benefit analysis on the investment return in mushroom, unlike other agronomic crops land, fertilizers, machineries and pesticides required for cultivation, is considerable lower as opposed to market price which is relatively high, which then translates into higher profit margins.

Bangladeshi farmers who are using local variety of seeds can grow rice and wheat crops, take an average of months to reach harvest maturity, and this time period is equivalent to a minimum two mushrooms harvest maturity. In general, with a training in mushroom cultivation, only TK.20,000 in investment, can yield a  minimum tk.4,000 profits, which guarantees a modest 20% return on investments. This means there is very less likelihood for losses and this indeed represents a fantastic opportunity for small and medium entrepreneurs.

Currently there is a widening market for mushrooms with increasing demand, which is both local and international. Dhaka and other major cities are springing with a series of new gourmet restaurants, whether it specializes in the much demanded Chinese cuisines or oriental. One of the most sought after ingredients is mushrooms, which include an assortment of dried mushrooms which are highly demanded. On the other hand, in the retail side, scourging the shelves of Agora, Meena Bazar, Shawpno and other retail outlets, one can see a line of canned mushrooms imported from China and not Bangladesh. This clearly indicates that the current level of production is not sufficient to meet domestic demand, let alone channeling production for exports.

However citing global opportunities, there is a huge growing market for mushrooms in Europe and North America. With the breakthrough of scientific research, mushroom also has many medicinal values, apart from it being edible and now there is a huge growing demand by the global pharmaceutical industry seeking it as a raw material component. If Bangladesh can take advantage from business opportunity, we can expect millions of dollars in revenue from mushroom exports only provided. However, at present there is limited dissemination of knowledge and awareness with regard to the possibilities that investing in mushroom cultivation and processing could present to the investors if Bangladesh can overcome our severe shortage of forward linkages.

Must know of mushroom cultivation

The challenge of mushroom cultivation is only moderately difficult. There are three basic factors that you need to take care of, which is the spawn, substrate and environment.

The spawn of the mushroom is like the seed of any crop, and the success of the commercial production of mushroom depends on the quality of spawn. Therefore a sound knowledge of the different available spawn and which ones are best are essential.

The commonly grown mushrooms are decomposers and growing on wood, leaves and straw. The materials which the mushrooms decompose are the substrate and is the food that mushroom needs to feed in, thus the substrate is basically the fertilizer component. However some varieties require inorganic compounds like nitrogen in addition to the organic compounds for the mushrooms to grow.

Environment is the last important factor including the temperature, humidity, light and ventilation in the growing area. Most mushrooms grow where the pH value of substrate is from 6-8 but it varies from species to species and that needs to be maintained as well. There are two principal stages to mushroom cultivation and one is the vegetative stage and another is fruiting stage, and ideal environment is requires in each of the stage to obtain the best yield. Owing to the development of technology, the computer controlled mushroom farm operating system, is now locally available and can help maintain the optimum environmental conditions required.

For any innovative entrepreneurs, who are looking for an alternative from the traditional avenues and scope for entrepreneur, mushroom cultivation might just be the answer to your prayers. It guarantees a return on your investment and the availability of technology to control the environment minimizes the risks involved in the investment. If that is not enough, mushrooms also open the door for alternative and affordable means of protein nutrition for the average-income household thereby ensuring that your mushroom venture also contributes to the economic prosperity to a certain extent.

  • DhakaCourier
  • Vol 35
  • Issue 4

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