I am Ramindra Suwal, 30, from Nepal. I am agricultural economist and engaged in public services and also agripreneurialism.
My project is about growing shitake (Lentinus edodus) mushrooms. Shitake is a newly introduced mushroom in Nepal. Because of its high profit, low labour and land requirements compared to Pleurotus and Agaricus it gaing popularity among farmers.
I had my own logs of Alnus and Castonopsis for this season—the most suitable woods available in Nepal for shitake mushrooms production. I can get logs from community forests to cultivate or more logs next year. The logs are planted with the spores in spring and after the mycelium has grown through the wood, fruit bodies of shitake begin to grow out on the logs. With this method, steady production is obtained.
About 300 logs were inoculated with shitake spores in previous year. I became familiar with the production system and the potential markets.
Shitake production is started from October to November and will continue up to 3–6 years, depending upon care. Last year about 3 kg per log of shitake mushrooms were produced.
I am preparing to establish a shiitake farm of 5,000 logs this year. It will produce approximately 15,000 kilograms of shiitake next year. The demand for the mushroom is very high and the current production is not sufficient.
Shiitake may be used as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes and is valued for its full-bodied flavour, dark colour, and meaty texture. In 2014, wholesale market prices for shiitake ranged from NPR 500 to NPR 850 per kilogram. Growers generally received between NPR 400 to NPR 750 per kilogram for fresh, well-formed mushrooms.
The market for log-grown specialty mushrooms continues to develop in Kathmandu Valley. Fine restaurants (particularly those specializing in Continental, French, or Asian cuisine), along with organic or wholefood markets, are currently the main market outlets. Direct markets, including farmers markets and CSAs, are also feasible.
Additional options for marketing Kathmandu Valley log-grown fresh shiitake mushrooms include locally owned supermarkets. Dried mushrooms can be sold at local outlets, as well as by mail order or on the Internet.
Value-added products, such as soups or dip mixes, are an additional possibility. Shiitake is known for its medicinal as well as its culinary value, so there may be possible markets in the pharmaceutical or nutriceutical industries for large-scale producers.
Log-grown mushrooms are considered superior in flavour and have a longer shelf-life compared to those grown in artificial media. Additionally, log-grown mushrooms may contain higher percentages of the medicinally active ingredient(s) present in these species. Whether the quality factors are sufficient to outweigh the efficiency factors in the marketplace is uncertain.
Hardwood trees removed from timberland during thinning operations can be used to grow shiitake mushrooms. In addition, when the saw timber is finally harvested, large hardwood limbs are also useful for growing the mushrooms.
The cost of hardwood logs will be NPR 100 (self cut) and NPR 150 (harvested, 4–8″ in diameter, 3–4’ in length), which will be available from firewood dealers, and timber stand improvement harvesting/thinning operations.
The logs will be maintained in an environment above 40 % moisture and kept fully shaded in the summer. Under natural conditions, shiitake mushrooms fruit in the spring and autumn when temperatures are cool. Tree species selected for shiitake cultivation influence the overall yield of mushrooms and the likelihood of contamination.
Nepal’s history with shitake is not so long. Cultivated mushrooms were started in 1976, but nowadays it is a fast-growing business due to its high profit. Nepal is also one of the countries where mushrooms can be cultivated throughout the year under natural environmental conditions. But in some hot and cold countries it needs highly sophisticated building. It may not be affordable for farmers.
A small segment of Nepalese agriculture has been commercialized and diversified. This segment, however, is unable to scale up or grow because of the lack of industrialization of the sector. One such sector is mushroom products.
Shiitake mushrooms are cultivated on small-diameter (3 to 8 inch) hardwood logs that have been cut from decay-free, live trees with intact bark. Trees are most commonly inoculated in late winter/early spring (February/March), as soon as possible after felling.
Logs can also be inoculated successfully at the time of leaf drop in the autumn when the food-rich sap is returning to the roots for the winter (October/November). However, the rising sap in the late winter/early spring has higher sugar content and will encourage a more rapid growth of the fungus.
In Nepal, There are only 10–15 small growers of shitake mushrooms. The demand for mushrooms is very high. This can be the alternative to young people instead of going abroad for employment.
I am sure that the success of this project will make a difference in the community, i.e. providing employment, offering alternative protein, and, most important, making it available to a growing market.
I have divided funds into three phases in accordance with implementation of the project:
Phase One: timeframe: 4 months, Amount USD 2,500
Activity: Improve structure, construct shade house, and install water system.
Phase Two: timeframe: 2 months, Amount USD 1,500
Activity: collection of hardwoods, spores, and wax.
Phase Three: timeframe: 4 months, Amount USD 1,000
Activity: routine management, harvesting packaging, and marketing.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Ramindra Suwal (Nepal): ramindrasuwal[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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