Mushroom grower Lương Thị Bích Ngọc of the northern province of Bắc Ninh is harvesting mushrooms. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Thương
BẮC NINH — After investing VNĐ100 million (US$4,300) to grow mushrooms in a 300 sq.m workshop in 2015, a family in the northern province of Bắc Ninh earned VNĐ150 million a year later.
The profit made Lương Thị Kim Ngọc, born in 1989, and her husband, of Đông Cứu Commune, Gia Bình District, more confident in their start-up choice.
But one winter day, they were astonished to see all of the mushrooms in their workshop had spoiled after a frigid night.
“Mushrooms grow well in hot weather with high humidity. However, at this time, our workshop was wrapped with nets only. Cold winds ruined all the mushroom germs,” Ngọc said.
“We were just so inexperienced,” Ngọc said, adding that they rushed to get money to fix the workshop so that it could meet Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practice (VietGAP) standards.
Unlike conventional mushroom growing techniques, VietGAP requires farmers to follow strict requirements in every production stages, Ngọc said.
Growers have to use listed substances only, she said, adding that she prefered bioproducts for her mushrooms.
“When I first started growing mushrooms, I mixed straw and sawdust to make mushroom substrates. Then, I used cotton instead of straw,” she said.
“My husband and I were so happy to see our first mushroom batches. We brought the mushroom to offer to all the food stores in the neighbourhood,” Ngọc said, adding that the stores accepted the mushrooms.
“For the first year, we earned a profit of VNĐ150 million,” she said, noting that, since then, they have earned about VNĐ30 million monthly.
Graduating from Biotechnology Department of Thái Nguyên Agriculture and Forestry in 2012, Ngọc said she used to work for companies but returned to her hometown to grow mushrooms which helped her to satisfy her two passions – business and biotechnology.
Growing mushrooms depended much on the weather, so having a standard workshop played a key role in successful farming, Ngọc said.
Ngọc paid much attention to the workshop where she installed an automatic lighting system and a semi-automatic watering system so lights and humidity could be adjusted properly, creating favourable conditions for mushroom growth.
In 2018, Ngọc’s mushroom workshop was recognised as meeting VietGAP standards.
Gia Bình District Women’s Union also helped Ngọc access a loan of VNĐ300 million to develop her start-up.
Ngọc invited seven people in her neighbourhood to form a co-operative. Ngọc taught other co-operative members farming techniques and found a market for their products.
With a stable market, Ngọc’s co-operative sells about a tonne of oyster mushrooms and 700kg of straw mushrooms monthly.
As Ngọc’s business has expanded, she offered regular jobs for three other people and seasonal jobs for two others. Each of them could earn on average VNĐ6 million monthly.
Đào Thị Chắt, a farmer in Đông Cứu Commune, said that thanks to Ngọc’s support, she now also grew mushroom in addition to rice.
“Mushrooms help generate extra income for my family and improve our living conditions,” she said.
Trần Thị Hoa, chairwoman of Gia Bình District Women’s Union, said that the union connected Ngọc and other local farmers who wanted to grow mushrooms.
Ngọc not only shared her experience and farming skills but also helped other mushroom growers sell their products, Hoa said, adding that the union has been supporting Ngọc to develop her own mushroom trademark. — VNS