Women and farmers in Nagaland are benefiting from this mushroom-growing agritech industry.

Women and farmers in Nagaland are benefiting from this mushroom-tech enterprise.
Women and farmers in Nagaland are benefiting from this mushroom-tech enterprise.

Farmers may rely on Konger Agritech for a wide range of services, including training and raw materials.

In Nagaland’s Chumukedima District, Apile is a farmer in the hamlet of Virazouma. She is 43 years old and a member of the Sevi Self Help Group, which is leading the way in the state’s burgeoning mushroom farming industry.

Konger Agritech (Konger), an organization that helps farmers make money from “spawn to market,” has been working with her and the other members of her team.

Konger (ICAR) was invented by Dr. Sosang Longkumer, an agricultural researcher with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. He developed Konger, the only organization in the nation that produces shiitake wood dowel spawn, and was an expert in farming methods and techniques.

To our knowledge, we are New York’s sole laboratory producing shiitake and other exotic mushroom seedlings. When I was a research scholar, I experimented with mushroom cultivation and mushroom spawn production. After obtaining success in my early tests, I decided to build a mushroom spawn production laboratory. This would teach people how to grow mushrooms and give them a sustainable source of income. Dr. Sosang, who founded his lab in 2018 and plans to include Konger in 2020, undertook an extensive training program for mushroom cultivation at the Directorate of Mushroom Research (DMR) at Solan in Himachal Pradesh.

Building an effective company from the ground up

Konger began by training SHGs it was already acquainted with or who came to Dr. Sosang for help.

Because of the collaboration with government projects like Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) by the Department of Forests and Nagaland State Rural Livelihood Mission (NSRLM) under the Department of Rural Development, “we saw a considerable difference in the success ratio” as they tied up with “a huge network of SHGs in every state.”

For a year in 2018, Konger worked with the JICA Project of Nagaland Forest Management in three districts of Nagaland, namely, Tuensang District, Mokokchung District, and Tuophema Village in Kohima District.

There was a positive impact on shiitake quality in all three villages, and the beneficiaries went on to develop their farms in later years and are some of our pioneering shiitake farmers today, says Dr. Sosang.

As a technical consultant for the Nagaland government’s Department of Horticulture, the organization has also taught some 800 farmers.

More than 1,000 SHGs are being mentored around the state by the NSRLM Department of Rural Development. Many individuals and private organisations have also entered, so we have a mix of government beneficiaries and self-funded farmers. “

In the post-harvest season, farmers now have a whole new cash stream thanks to the training.

Harvesting leaves us with a mountain of paddy straw. When we met with Dr. Sosang in November 2020, we learned how to utilise the straw to produce mushrooms. We are now making money from paddy straws that we would have otherwise burned thanks to his coaching, “Apile reports.

When NSRLM first invested Rs. 10,000, they made a profit of Rs. 60,000 in three months, she said. She claims her company has become a major oyster mushroom grower in Chumukedima after only three months on the market.

Mentoring as a means of promoting personal development

From the beginning of the mushroom growing process through the establishment of the farm, Konger teaches and instructs farmers and SHG farmers alike.

There is a financial commitment on their part when they acquire the spawn and dowels from our lab using the grant money they get to begin mushroom farming. Our buy-back strategy ensures that farmers aren’t burdened by their produce as output grows. As a result, the brand’s objective of extending the mushroom-preneur community has been bolstered by training existing NGOs and organisations that go on to teach future farmers in their network. All of this has been provided free of charge since Dr. Sosang and his team are committed to educating and developing local farmers.

Dr. Sosang says Konger teaches farmers not just how to cultivate mushrooms, but also how to promote their products, manage their inventory, and more.

By educating them and guiding them along the way, we want to give farmers the tools they need to succeed. People know us for it. Each farmer can do great things if given the correct technical advice and support, since we are already a farmers’ community, so the practical know-how is nearly second nature and the rest comes naturally. “

SHGs and individual agriculturists are both parts of Konger’s clientele of over 3,000 farmers today.

So far, our farmers have produced over 120,000 kg of oyster mushrooms worth Rs 180 lakh (at a price of Rs 150 per kilogram). However, its output is still below the level required by the state market. It is estimated that our farmers have produced 7,000 kg of shiitake mushrooms (worth a total of 35 million rupees). According to Dr. Sosang’s estimates, we predict a harvest of 60,000 kg of shiitake mushrooms this winter.

Local farmers have found it advantageous to collaborate with Konger Agritech on the commercial production of shitake mushrooms. In other words, it’s a simple way to make money that doesn’t require any prior experience or specialised knowledge. Kikrusonuo, a 35-year-old member of the Tsiekhe SHG from Tuophema Village and a participant in the JICA project, hopes it will assist local farmers and jobless people and teach them the significance of self-reliance.

In the words of Dr. Sosang, the goal of Konger is to build a self-sufficient community while taking full advantage of the area’s natural resources and favourable climate.

Fighting poverty in our nation may be as simple as cultivating mushrooms. “Among small-scale food crop businesses, it has the greatest success rate, does not have seasonality limits, does not need agrochemicals, has cheap labour, and is readily marketable (the local demand alone is more than what all the country’s farmers can produce).”

With the help of the organization, too, young people who are both educated and unemployed can make a living by cultivating oyster mushrooms with the help of the organization.

This partnership with Konger Agritech has been quite successful.” Throughout the whole process, Dr. Sosang has been quite helpful. Konger Agritech’s spawn quality has provided us with excellent mushrooms as well. Avolu, a 37-year-old shiitake farmer from Phek district, produces value-added items such Oyster mushroom grow-kits, dried shiitake, and shiitake powder.

Empowerment in the economic arena

Since working with the SHGs has empowered his community, Dr. Sosang feels women from indigenous groups are frequently “natural stewards of traditional wisdom and know-how when it comes to managing a home.”

It’s usually a good idea to apply the same principles to business, particularly when it comes to farming. Agrarian societies tend to have an easier time with farming, and they often blend traditional procedures and practices into the scientific approaches that we teach them, he adds.

A simple commercial mushroom farming business can have a huge impact on inclusive sustainable economic growth, whether it’s boosting the family’s income or ensuring food security for the community, he says, adding that many women from SHGs are now able to use their skills to grow the mushrooms, manage farm expenses, and market them in their respective markets.

While Konger has already begun training farmers and SHGs in Arunachal Pradesh, the company plans to extend its mushroom-preneur network to other states in northeastern India as well.