Futuristic farmers: Making room for mushroom

In an effort to expose agriculture students to the start-up ecosystem, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University has started ‘Agpreun’, an agricultural entrepreneurship club under the directorate of the university’s agribusiness development.
The club, which was on the anvil for the past three years, was formally inaugurated on March 16. It seeks to make argi students entrepreneurs by focusing on selling ‘minimum viable products’.

Speaking about the students’ start-up projects, P Jayaraman, a TNAU alumnus and an entrepreneur, who is also a member of TNAU agribusiness directorate (ABD) says, “It is something which would try to solve a real-time problem in agriculture. The project would need an investment of Rs 2 lakh to Rs to 3 lakh.”

The projects will focus on organic, affordable and easy gardening in urban spaces. One such start-up idea is vertical gardening and indoor landscaping. The project is the brain child of Surya Kiran Vaddadi, 22, and Veera Babu Pulla-final year B Tech horticulture students in the university.

“We might think there is no pollution indoors. But the wall paints we use emit Sulphur dioxide. Our startup idea’s aim is to purify the air and absorb toxic gases by planting house plants like syngonium,” Surya Kiran explains. He said within two months he would finalise the idea and launch it.

Likewise S Satyashree, 21 and Sowmiya Ravi, 21, final year B Tech horticulture students at TNAU have come up with ready-to-grow organic mushroom kits. They say they would plunge into their entrepreneurial venture as soon as they graduate.

The duo had their Eureka moment when they did an experiential learning course in mushroom farming. “We wanted to be entrepreneurs from the start and that’s why we took horticulture,” Satyashree says. “We chose mushroom cultivation as they are hidden treasures,” she explains.

Sowmiya said that though there are a lot of ready-to-grow mushroom kits available in the market, the duo strategized by making it more efficient. A completely organic mushroom kit that can be easily-grown at homes is their unique selling point. One has to just open a slit on the kit and water the mushroom compost. In 10 days he/she can harvest mushrooms at home, they said. “While other commercial kits yield 400 grams to 500 grams of mushrooms for 1.5kg of paddy straw substrate, ours has been proven to yield almost 1kg mushrooms for the same amount of substrate,” Sowmiya says.

The projects will also have iterative modelling, in which they will be bettered with each phase using manageable budgets. Satyashree and Sowmiya got technical support for their project from mushroom research and training centre at the university. For now, they have collaborated with another firm to market their product online.

“The directorate mainly creates a mindset in students to start own businesses through training programmes,” R Murugesan, director of ABD says. It also tries to build confidence in them to take up own businesses. “We not only help them with ideation, but also guide them in refining their technology wherever necessary,” he concludes.

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‘Nigeria Can Earn Forex From Mushroom’

Image result for mushroom farmingMushroom cultivation can boost  farmers’ income, the Acting Executive Director National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan, Dr Abayomi Olaniyan, has said.

He spoke during a three- day training dubbed Skill Acquisition and Capacity Buildingfor Value Chain on Mango and Mushroom, jointly organised byNIHORT and Hague Logistics Limited in Ilorin,Kwara State.

Represented by the Institute’s Head of Research, Dr Stephen Afolayan, Olaniyan said: “it is worthy of note that Nigeria has comparative advantage in the production of mangoes and mushrooms.

“Mango is among the important tropical fruits and is greatly relished for its succulence, exotic flavour and delicious taste in most countries of the world. Nigeria ranks ninth in world mango production. He added that mushroom enjoys both domestic and international acceptance as a food item, saying that “it is a veritable cash crop with potential to generate foreign exchange.”

“Mushroom is particularly attractive to a broad spectrum of stakeholders because it can be produced indoors in large quantity within a short period of time at great profitability. Mushroom cultivation provides opportunities for improving the sustainability of small farming systems through recycling of organic matter, which can be used as a growing substrate and the returned to the land as fertilizer.”

To this end, he said the Federal Government has commenced the training of over 60 persons on mango and mushroom production.

Olaniyan described horticulture as one of the most viable and sustainable sources of household income, employment generation, enhanced gross domestic  product and government revenue.

Earlier, the Coordinator of the programme and Director of Research, NIHORT, Dr Lawrence Taiwo said that the institute has devised a means of converting plantain and pineapple wastes to wealth.

Said he: “We are targeting more than 500 participants this year for mangoes and mushrooms training. We just finished training about 35in Ibadan, Oyo state. We are going to Delta state to train about 400people on plantains and pineapples production. We have developed a technology to use plantains waste for soap making. “With that we believe that a lot of people will be empowered in wealth and job creation. We want to train them to be job creators. So we are concentrating on waste to wealth in Delta state. In the next fourweeks, we will hit Ebonyi State to train some youths on scent-leaf and Ogbona.

On the current training programme in Kwara state, he said: “We are going to empower the participants with kits that they can start up business with.