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In mushrooms, these students see a future

At 6 am, Karthik NS, a student of IES College of Engineering, takes his bike out and heads straight into a farmland at Athani. Accompanying him is Aswin CS, a student of NSS Engineering College, Palakkad. At the mushroom farm they have set up, Karthik and Aswin have their hands full, busy nurturing mushrooms and his fledgling business. By 8, they pluck the produce and travel to neighbourhood stores and supermarkets where to keep mushrooms for sale. Then they head to college to attend classes. Just to make it contextual, most students their age would be still in the bed, snoozing or dreaming. But these two are turning their dream into reality.

By evening, they return again to the farmland. The cycle repeats almost every day. The business is picking up and the duo has plans to expand the base once they wrap up their studies.

Want to know more about their mushroom business, call: 8943401501

There is tremendous hard work behind their initiative. Their quality is also good, and delivery prompt. In fact, I am also interested to join them. Everyone is excited about their farming.
- Vivek KV, friend

For a B.Tech student, farming won’t come easy. Was it pure business interest or passion towards nature?

Nature has always attracted us. Plus, business, yes.

Why did you decide on cultivating mushrooms?

Obviously, market demand. Since only limited people take it up, there’s more demand for mushroom cultivation. Also, it is no easy task and not everybody will succeed.

How challenging was mushroom cultivation? What were the biggest problems faced?

Mushroom farming is not easy at all. It needs investment, research and over all patience. Mushroom should be cultivated in hygienic situations and it needs time and patience. The whole process itself takes 20 days. First the first 15 days, it should be kept in a shed, with no sunlight exposure. Steps should be taken to keep away insects. Even the packing has to be smart, and hygienic.

How do you guys market the product and which variety is the best-seller?

We place our produce at local vegetable stores and supermarkets. We mostly sell ‘Chippy’ Mushroom, ‘Muttu’ Mushroom and ‘Milky’. ‘Chippy’ mushroom get perished in just two days, but it’s the best on both counts – nutritional and taste-wise. It has excellent fibre content. Slowly, we are building our brand value and we need to branch out to small towns and cities.

How much research has been done before you take up this?

We have done extensive research for a year. We have also visited some farmlands where mushroom is cultivated. We have also studied about risks and possible remedial measures.

How do you divide time between college and farming?

Frankly, the plan was to launch the business after the course. But then we thought of taking it up during vacation. Sometimes, we need to spend a whole day. So, it’s going to be tough. Nowadays, we pluck the stuff in the morning, go to shops to have it displayed and in the evening we return to water them.

What’s the production scale?

We have cultivated nearly 10 kg of mushroom so far. We have already got back the invested money. The process now is such that we can’t produce them continuously. So our next plan is to cultivate them every day.

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Also tell us how are you guys doing marketing? Perhaps, another huge challenge.

Since we have not gone large-scale yet, marketing is comparatively easy. The moment we expand, it becomes tough. Now we are targeting shops we know and they are our regular customers (homes). Our next plan is to have tie-ups with supermarkets. Thrissur too is on our radar.

If anybody wants to take up mushroom cultivation, what’s your advice?

You should be aware of its pros and cons. Knowledge and marketing is equally important. Even if we cover it with net, small insects will come from hey.While we trap it with oil or light the insects will be caught and avoided. It should be neat. While we show this to others, we need to wash our hands with detol. It needs much moisture for good growth. Rainy season is better for this.

Since it’s a perishable item, how do you deal with that aspect?

The durability depends on the variety of mushrooms. In hypermarkets, some varieties last long. For instance, ‘Chippy’ mushrooms last for two days as it is hard, while some stay fresh for five days.

Are you planning to take up cultivation of other vegetables?

Multiple varieties of mushroom can be tried out. We are planning to make mushroom cutlets and mushroom rolls.We are also planning to take up organic farming in association with Kudumbasree.

Which shops are you targeting? Supermarkets or neighbourhood stores?

Ideally speaking, hypermarket and super markets are the best places as those who purchase will be more aware of its nutritional/medicinal value, more than just taste. Also, with better cold storage facility, mushrooms can be kept fresh. At least 15-20 packets can be sold through each local store.

Finally, what’s the future plan? White-collar job or farming?

We would like to do something individually.If this turns out to be a huge success, we will continue it. We also have other business ideas.

Actually, I was surprised when they took up business. I like their idea of mushroom cultivation and they are very keen to make it big. I wish all the success.
- Anandh CS, friend of the duo, Mudmax School of Animation and VFX

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