Mushroom for livelihood and health

Mushroom growing and propagation is an overlooked industry in business and commerce. Though it has sprung as a feasible livelihood due to its low-cost start-up and efficiency, it was still not cultivated enough because of the lack of resources, training, and guidance of experts. But in these trying times, mushroom propagation became a popular venture for urban agriculture.

 

With the shock and heightened distress that the pandemic brought us, considering mushroom growing and production as a business pursuit can be a good income-generating activity for those who wanted to invest in something sustainable without breaking the bank.

 

With the aid of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), in line with its commitment to support and uplift the lives of farmers and fishers, created a program that highlights the right measures and urgency of ensuring food security amid the pandemic. With that, research for development (R4D) agencies have been refocusing and reinforcing their projects to support the DA-BAR’s current initiative.

 

One partner agency is the DA-Central Luzon Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CLIARC) that focuses on boosting mushroom propagation technology. With their current project titled, “Upscaling of Mushroom Crackers as Additional Income Source of Indigenous People in Caranglan, Nueva Ecija in Support to ALPAS-COVID 19,” CLIARC believed that this would help the Binbin Igorot’s Association, mushroom growers, and processors increase their income by 50 percent through the mushroom processing technologies developed by their agency. Funded by DA-BAR, this project can help enhance the skills and productivity of the beneficiaries and can also pave the way to the adoption of a healthier snack alternative.

 

This project is one of the installments of DA-Central Luzon’s main study on mushroom production titled, “Product Development and Shelf-Life Extension of Pleurotus Mushroom Processed Product Categorized into Frozen Foods, Condiments, Sauces, Sweets, and Pastries.” From its inception in 2015, 30 mushroom-based products were produced which greatly helped uplift a lot of lives until now.

 

The beginning of it all

 

With the main goal of generating and introducing low-cost mushroom production and technologies to rice farmers, the main study’s results have indeed come a long way since then. Through DA-BAR’s support, a successful food product line on mushrooms was created through the said study.

 

Marketed as snacks that do not only give consumers fulfillment in taste but also in nutritional content, this project has 10 frozen product varieties that include ice cream, ice drop, kikiam, bola-bola, nuggets, veggie-balls, longganisa, tapa, dumpling, and lumpiang shanghai. Moreover, another 10 mushroom-based products are dedicated to sweets and pastries. These are waffle, cupcake, espasol, macaroons, pie tart, pandesal, brownie, sugar-coated mushroom, glazed mushroom, and maja.

 

And of course, to complete the product line, mushroom-based condiments were also developed by the project implementers. Under the substudy, “Incorporation of Pleurotus Mushroom on the Processing and Development of Condiments, Mixes, and Sauces for Community-Based Enterprises,” mushroom ketchup, pickle relish, gravy, chili paste, fish ball sauce, mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, hot sauce, and barbecue sauce were developed.

 

In these products, fresh oyster mushroom fruits were harvested and processed to be incorporated in these goods. And to ensure its marketability, the project implementers conducted a sensory evaluation survey to gauge the people’s interest in the product taste-wise. Fortunately, the product line garnered positive feedback from the respondents and has also been commended for the presentation, texture, and varieties of flavor available.

 

The said project has successfully provided additional income to the rice farmers, particularly those who are already engaged in mushroom propagation. During this pandemic where additional income is much needed, this accomplishment sparked the interest of the project implementers to venture on another merchandise that will add flavor and crunch to the product line. Hence, the emergence of mushroom crackers.

 

Forwarding a healthier cracker alternative

 

Deemed as a healthier complimentary cracker, mushroom crackers are “deep-fried puffed crackers made from fresh oyster mushroom and vegetable flour,” as defined by the proponents. With its crunchiness and taste that resembles existing commercial crackers in the market, this product is a promising cracker alternative because of its added vitamins and minerals especially for those who are monitoring their health.

 

The project implementers have this vision to upscale and stretch its commercialization initiatives in DA’s Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita markets and other cooperatives. To boost its presence and linkages, the project implementers would also like to take advantage of social media for marketing and promotions.

 

A total of 48,000 packs are projected to be produced in this installment. Four thousand eight hundred will be distributed to the less privileged, 4,800 for the frontliners, and another 4,800 to the funding agency. The rest of the mushroom crackers are meant to be sold for the income of the beneficiaries. The production, of course, will be accompanied by hands-on training on the mushroom crackers processing technology and also training and assistance on Good Manufacturing Practices to ensure food quality.

 

Together with the mushroom cracker project, DA-Central Luzon has also been active recently in forwarding other initiatives for the department’s program. One of them is the project titled, “Support to Mass Production of Mushroom Quality Planting Through Mass Propagation Protocol in Central Luzon.” This aims to increase the production of quality mushroom pure culture, grain spawn, and fruiting bags by incorporating mass propagation techniques and protocols.

 

Early on, DA-Central Luzon was also known to be distributing spawn and fruiting bags to community members and associations through its research outreach stations located in Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales. Furthermore, with the public’s growing interest in mushroom production and propagation, the Mushroom Technology Development Center under CLIARC in Paraiso, Tarlac City has also launched a webinar on mushroom production through the center’s official Facebook page.

 

Being resilient keeps us afloat during this pandemic, but what can sustain our buoy is every agency’s concerted initiatives and contributions especially for our farmers and fishers. That is why mushroom growing is ideal for those who want to invest in a business that needs low-cost materials and a small space to start on. Aside from being an additional source of income, growing mushrooms can also serve as an efficient food source because of its nutritional value and properties. This can, indeed, help alleviate the threat to food security. (### Chantale T. Francisco)

 

For more information:

Dr. Emily A. Soriano

Agricultural Center Chief III

Department of Agriculture-Central Luzon Integrated Agricultural Research Center for Upland Development

Sto. Niño, Magalang, Pampanga

(0906) 245 0622

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