Mushroom business: First think small, then grow big

Home farming only takes 10 metre area to earn additional income. Housewives, retired people, anyone with some free time can try it.

The mutsutake mushroom, also called the pine mushroom, is a highly sought-after mushroom that grows in Asia, Europe, and North America, prized by the Japanese and Chinese for its distinct spicy-aromatic odor (Source: Wikipedia)


Mushroom Kingdom

A housewife's backyard hobby keeps Thai restaurants supplied


Yuthana Praiwan

Investment could break even in eight or nine months, says Mrs Sirinat. YUTHANA PRAIWAN

Sirinat Noonpakdee was over the moon when she saw that the yanagi mutsutake mushrooms planted two months ago were ready to harvest.

The 39-year-old housewife had spent 45,000 baht on a cultivation unit at her house in Lam Luk Ka, Pathum Thani since early this year, but the first crop was not seen until two weeks ago.

The Japanese mushroom is a fixture of Thai cuisines that are popular among health-conscious local people, generally appearing in premium Thai restaurants.

Mrs Sirinat's idea sprouted in late 2011 after flooding destroyed the garden in her backyard. She began to look at the possibility of owning her own business as a small mushroom farmer.

"I was so desperate because my lovely garden was full of mud after the floods ended," she said.

Mrs Sirinat's youngest son turned three years old around that time and she sent him to kindergarten. With free time on her hands, she turned to mushroom farming instead of restoring the old garden.

Her first step was attending a training course for mushroom farming taught by an expert last year.

"At least I could help my husband, who is a senior engineer at Thai Airways, earn more money for the family's monthly bills," she said.

Songi gui (송이구이), grilled matsutake in Korean cuisine (Source: Wikipedia)

Together with her husband, Mrs Sirinat last year turned part of the backyard into a small mushroom house. The investment included the structure itself, mushroom substrate and organic pesticides. Cultivation began in August and the first set of mushrooms appeared this month.

The first crop is estimated at 30 kilogrammes, to be sold to wholesalers for a sum of 7,000-8,000 baht. The second crop is expected in the next two weeks.

"The revenue from my little mushroom house could make my investment break even within eight or nine months," Mrs Sirinat said.

Sanphaiboon Thanbowontham is the owner of Bowon Tham Mushroom Farm, which offers services and materials for mushroom farming. He said mushroom farming is getting popular on the outskirts of Bangkok and other big cities because of high demand from restaurants.

This business is suitable not only for housewives, but also retired white-collar workers who can earn additional income.

Choosing the kind of mushroom is important because growing techniques vary depending on type.

"Just prepare an area of at least 10 square metres at your house to develop into a small mushroom unit," said Mr Sanphaiboon.

He advises farmers-to-be to cautiously select a service provider and use hygienic mushroom substrate. In the past, some conventional mushroom farmers failed to improve productivity, choosing improper mushroom substrate.

"Humidity should be appropriate," he said. "If the mushroom house is too humid, there will be fungi. If too dry, productivity will be low."

About the author

Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer