Kota-based college student Yashraj Sahu and his friend Rahul Meena set up a soil-less mushroom farm and harvested 1000 kg of oyster mushrooms in one go.
Kota-resident Yashraj Sahu came to know about mushroom farming from a farmer in his village during his school days. He began closely looking at the process and eventually developed an interest. That’s when he decided to grow up to become a large-scale mushroom farmer.
To enable this, he took up the agriculture stream in his higher secondary class and is now a final year BSc Agriculture student. What makes Yashraj different is his strong will to put together his dream farm even before completing his studies!
Yashraj shares that hailing from a low-income family with parents being daily wage labourers, he always wanted to build a business of his own and be successful.
So, the 21-year-old, accompanied by his friend Rahul Meena founded Agro Steps Pvt Ltd — a company selling oyster mushrooms.
Setting up the mushroom farm
“I set up a farm in a 625 sq ft plot from scratch. I used bamboo, green net and black polythene to set up a structure where bags with sown mushroom seeds are hung. All these activities are done after my college time. It took me close to a month to get this farm ready,” says Yashraj.
After setting up the structure, he spent 10 consecutive days from 9 pm to 1 am preparing 500 bags to grow mushrooms.
It takes 45 to 60 days for one batch of mushrooms to get ready for sale. Additionally, the duo also purchased mushrooms from other farmers for a better rate in order to build more connections and customers.
“It was after getting into college that I took mushroom farming seriously. I took a one-month course from Krishi Van — an agricultural institute in Dehradun and then tried growing mushrooms in 50 bags in 2018. I harvested around 80 kg of produce from these bags, and it built my confidence,” he explains.
Even though he sold 80 kg of mushrooms obtained from the first experiment at Rs 100 per kg, Yashraj couldn’t continue the cultivation for the next two years due to the pandemic.
During this period, I was in touch with the scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kota, who shared a new method of growing mushrooms without the use of soil. In January 2022, I restarted the business with 500 bags using this method which gave a better harvest. I earned more than Rs 80,000 from this batch alone,” he shares.
Yashraj sells fresh oyster mushrooms for Rs 100–150 per kg. But greater profits come by selling the same mushroom in powder format. It is bought by people for Rs 1,500–2,000 per kg.
“In order to prepare 10 kg of mushroom powder, 100 kg of fresh oyster mushroom is required. This is the reason why it is priced higher. Within 60 days, I was able to make up to Rs 1 lakh from the 500 cultivated bags,” he adds.
Yashraj’s 24-year-old business partner Rahul too helped in setting up this batch of mushrooms.
“One of us is always present at the farm looking after the needs and growth of the produce. This could also be a reason why we were able to yield up to 700 grams of mushroom from a single bag. Usually, the quantity never goes more than 400 grams. In fact, both of us were surprised and happy to see the results,” he says.
How to grow mushrooms?
“At least 500 bags have to be prepared for cultivating 1000 kg of oyster mushrooms. To set up these bags 600 kg straw, 100 kg seed, black polythene worth Rs 200 and rope worth Rs 800 is required. Bamboo structures are made and covered with a green net to ensure sunlight doesn’t enter the structure, which affects the growth of mushrooms,” explains the agripreneur.
“The bags have to be kept away from sunlight for 18 days. Watering is also not necessary during this period. After 18 days, we can start sprinkling water, and this has to be continued for 45–60 days. Annually, a maximum of seven rounds of cultivation can be done this way,” he adds.
In the initial days, Yashraj faced difficulty in finding buyers for his produce. But now, with the help of YouTube, Krishi Vigyan Kendra and Krishi Van Sansthan, the mushrooms are in good demand all over Kota.
“We upload videos of mushroom cultivation and harvest in our YouTube channel, which has helped a lot in the sales,” he says.
Yashraj is also earning well through the sales of value-added products like fresh mushroom pickles, papad, capsule and biscuit.
“There are no businessmen or farmers in either of our families. So, we were reluctant to step into the field. But now the family members are happy seeing the growth of our company and the income generated after months of hard work. We are all set to go bigger by adding 500 more bags in the upcoming months,” says the young businessman who also helps fellow farmers set up their own mushroom farms at their spaces.
Read this story in Hindi here.
Edited by Pranita Bhat