Vikas Verma was 18 years old when his mushroom farming experiment incurred a loss of Rs 14 lakh. However, this farmer from Hisar in Haryana remained undeterred by the setback and eventually transformed it into a bumper success.
Today, his mushroom farming earns him a business of Rs 50 lakh, and he has imparted skills to thousands of others in the fraternity.
Born to a farmer’s family, Vikas saw his grandfather and father grow traditional crops like wheat, bajra and other food grains. However, as he cleared Class 12, he told his family about his lack of interest in academics.
“I expressed my willingness to begin a farming startup to my father. Thereafter, I quit my pursuit for higher education and tried to find ideas for my startup,” he tells The Better India.
Vikas soon discovered mushroom farming in nearby Sonipat. “A significant number of farmers were growing mushrooms and earning good profits there. Moreover, no known farmer in my region cultivated the fungi commercially. So, I decided to try my hands at it,” he says.
In 2014, he took training from Krishi Vigyan Kendra, an agriculture department of the State Government and started Vedanta Mushroom Pvt. Ltd., to begin mushroom farming with 5,000 compost bags.
“I spent Rs 14 lakh to buy spawns, prepare bags and set up a unit to grow mushrooms. I failed miserably. It was a major blow to my ambitious project, but I decided to continue and learn from my mistakes,” the 24-year-old says.
Vikas learned that his compost was not ideal for the mushroom growth turned against him. A few weeks later, he corrected the formula to become a successful grower.
However, he started facing challenges in marketing the product too. “I offered mushrooms for a price of Rs 100 per kilo. However, the local market was not accepting mushrooms as expected. Also, the shelf-life of mushrooms is 72 hours. With no storage facility, I began facing losses or selling mushrooms at a low price of Rs 60 per kilo. It started turning into an unfeasible venture,” Vikas explains.
Vikas then returned to seek help from the officials of the agriculture department who suggested he dry the mushrooms and sell them with value addition.
“I started drying mushrooms to make powder and preparing health drinks, biscuits, papad and pickles,” he says, adding, “The health drink works best for patients with tuberculosis, thyroid, diabetes and blood pressure. Also, it is the only source of Vitamin-D for people following a vegetarian diet.”
Today, Vikas grows button, oyster and milky mushrooms that earn him ten times more. “Against the price of Rs 100 per kilo, I sell the mushrooms at Rs 1,000 per kilo of value-added products, which earns me a yearly profit of Rs 35 lakh,” he says, adding that his biggest market lies in Delhi and Ludhiana in Punjab.
Reaping success, Vikas decided to extend his skills and knowledge to help farmers in his state. “Many farmers in the neighbouring areas started approaching me. So, I decided to train them for free as I believe that the community should progress at large,” he says.
Vikas has trained over 12,000 farmers over the past six years, out of which 3,000 farmers actively grow mushrooms throughout the year. “Some others grow seasonally while others grow them as per their convenience,” he adds.
However, Vikas’s crucial challenge to build the venture was to find a suitable market and the right guidance. “It took time to establish a customer base for the products. There were no farmers who could have helped to guide me in the process,” he says.
For this, he plans to export his products and set up a high technology unit on his farm. “I have no financial support and savings to build a sophisticated farm with a canning unit. I want to help other farmers become progressive farmers,” Vikas adds.
For more information, please contact Vikas at 9992365285.
Edited by Yoshita Rao