The global trend of processed foods is increasing in developed countries and in developing countries, like Nepal, too. Nepalis’ food habits are also changing over time. So, mushroom farming has become one option for farmers, for their livelihoods. After investing a lot in the infrastructure of mushroom farming, farmers try to gain return of investment (ROI) within the minimum time possible and balance the break-even point.
There are about 69,000 species of mushrooms available globally, while only 2,000 species from 30 genera are edible mushroom and commercially cultivated (Niazi, 2015). The global mushroom market has reached USD 29,427.92 million in 2013 and is expected to be USD 50,034.12 million in 2019 (Anonymous, 2015).
The Nepalese mushroom market possesses very few post-harvest and handling operations. Mushrooms, being a high-moisture content food, are prone to different types of contamination (Ajayi et al., 2015). Generally, the moisture content of mushrooms is above 70% (Whole_food_catlog, 2015). With such a high moisture content, it takes up a lot of space and is highly perishable. A simple technology of packaging mushroom in low-density polythene (LDPE) has been introduced but cannot sustain the mushrooms long enough because LDPE is a low-moisture barrier.
Drying with modified packaging can be one of the best solutions for the problem. Drying the mushroom to low-moisture content till 12 to 15% enables mushroom be packed in as small area as possible, which means one kilogram of fresh mushrooms can be dried to 220 grams or even less. Packaging also plays a vital role in marketing the dried mushroom, since it can be packed in multilayer packaging film with attractive printing. So, the packaging attracts the consumers and a value-added price for the dried mushroom with very little effort.
The project location will be in Pokhara Sub-Metropolitan City where we have direct contact with the mushroom farmers. As the city receives the highest rainfall, the humidity is very humid and favourable for mushroom cultivation, and we have personal contact with the farmers.
Since, in Nepalese department stores we can find the Japanese dehydrated mushroom, an idea came to mind: why not enable Nepalese mushroom entrepreneurs to adapt this technology and sell their dehydrated mushroom regionally, at first, nationally afterwards, and then internationally?
Adaptation of these technologies uses a little more capital but has a high return-on-investment (ROI). The solar dryers will be constructed near the farming zone where the mushrooms are harvested and left for drying. After the mushrooms reach a critical moisture content they will packed in the horizontal fill and seal machine with a shelf-life of at least three to six months or more. Such a long shelf-life product enables farmers to market their product for a longer time.
Having expertise of post-harvest agriculture (among the YPARD members), I thought to apply for it. The proposed budget is:
- Culture purchase USD 20 per batch (maximum of 20 batches)
- LDPE for the mushroom harvest USD 50
- Bamboo for mushroom harvest USD 100
- Multilayer packaging films USD 500
- Semi-mechanized solar dryer USD 1,000 (4ft x 10 ft or 8 ft x 5 ft]
- Potassium metabishulphite (preservative agent) USD 200
- Nitrogen flushing packaging machine USD 500
- Land lease USD 400 per year
- Labour cost USD 500
- Marketing and promotion USD 750
The project’s success will be determined, first, by the break-even point (neither profit nor loss), by its fixed cost, variable cost and variable numbers. After the project reaches break-even then it will be true profitable, will be determined accordingly and the success of the project. Once the project crossed the break-even then it is self-sustainable.
Another aspect of success of the project will be determined by the quality parameters. The proximate and some ultimate analysis of the dehydrated mushroom will be analysed in the Pokhara Bigyan Tatha Prabidhi Campus as well as some in DFTQC. The packaged mushroom follow Nepalese Food Law (1966), and shows net weight, gross weight, manufacturing weight, expiry date, proximate composition, manufacturers address, price, and batch number so a complete traceable system could be made.
I am a microbiologist as well as agricultural engineer. I am member of YPARD and have Advanced Training in Agricultural Engineering (ATAE) from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, specializing in packaging materials and shelf-life elongation.
Ajayi, O., Obadina, A., Idowu, M., Adegunwa, M., Kajihausa, O., Sanni, L., Asagbra, Y., Ashiru, B. and Tomlins, K. (2015). Effect of packaging materials on the chemical composition and microbiological quality of edible mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) grown on cassava peels. Food Sci. Nutr. 3 (4), 284-291.
Anonymous. (2015). Mushroom Market by Type, by Application , & by Region – Global Trends & Forecast to 2019. Research and Market. Retrieved from http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/3070244/mushroom-market-by-type-by-application-and-by#description. [Accessed 1 March, 2015].
Niazi, A. R. (2015). World production of edible mushroom and edible mushrooms of Pakistan. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/jannatiftikhar/world-production-of-edible-mushrooms-and-edible-mushrooms-of-pakistan. [Accessed 1 March, 2016].
Whole_food_catlog. (2015). Water content of mushroom. Retrieved from http://wholefoodcatalog.info/nutrient/water/mushrooms/. [Accessed 1 March, 2016].
Blogpost and picture submitted by Er. Animesh Khadka (Nepal): khadka.animesh[at]gmail.com
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