Mushroom cultivation- a pathway to economic sustainability by Hiresha Verma.
Started from Rs. 2000 now Hiresha Verma owns a multi-crore farming company helping women in the Doon Valley.
Ms. Hiresh Verma, MD & CEO of Hanzen Technologies Pvt. Ltd. is changing the lives of more than 2000 women in the Doon valley of Uttarakhand. In 2013, Hiresha was living in Delhi pursuing her IT career. It was the same year the Kedarnath cloudburst unfolded. Hiresha watched it on television and she immediately volunteered with an NGO to help provide aid and relief to the victims of the disaster. Hiresha was a native of Dehradun and she was deeply moved by seeing the after-effects of the floods.
“During my interactions with the women of the area, I realized that many of their husbands were now missing, never to return. These women were in a state of despair and had lost all their means of livelihood, support and hope,” she recalls.
THE PROCESS TO START A VENTURE:
Hiresha decided to use her chemistry and business management skills to help these women earn a better life. After a lot of research, Ms. Hiresha Verma harnessed her entrepreneurial acuity to start a successful social enterprise in mushroom farming. She had thought a lot about the options suiting Uttarakhand’s weather and also in terms of sustainability.
So she quit her Delhi job in 2013 and moved to Dehradun to start mushroom farming. Starting Mushroom Cultivation in 2013 with Oyster in her servant quarter with 25 bags, she got good results. On investing Rs. 2,000, she earned Rs. 5,000. She then started growing different varieties like oyster, milky and portobello and earned excellent results from Milky mushrooms. She also tried growing medicinal mushrooms like Shiitake, Ganoderma, Cremini and enoki varieties which are anti-cancer, antiviral and anti-oxidant.
She learned more about mushroom farming and varieties at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Dehradun, Uttarakhand. During her training at the ICAR-Directorate of Mushroom Research, Solan, and Himachal Pradesh in 2014, she approached the Department of Mushroom, Dehradun for Compost & Seeds and NHM & NHB for financial support. She started actual work in three bamboo huts with 500 bags in each hut for the Cultivation as a pilot project at Village Charba, Langa Road, Dehradun.
As she gained a better knowledge of the cultivation more women started approaching her. She provided them with all kinds of training and materials for free.
After working diligently for a year and fighting many challenges Hiresha earned the Uttarakhand state award for mushroom farming in 2015.
As more women joined the team, Hiresha looked for a more scientific approach to get a better outcome. In 2015, she procured a loan of Rs. 80 lakh to set up air-conditioned units that helped her with maintaining the weather conditions. A yield that started with a mere seasonal quantity of 20 kgs a day, with this setup, rose to 100 kgs per day, initially.
After this, there was no looking back for her and she kept on increasing production and diversifying the business. In 2016, it rose to 500 kgs per day. Now, Ms. Hiresha is helping farmers to grow Mushrooms in the hilly areas of Tehri, Pauri and Garhwal.
“At present, the farm harvests 1,000 kilos of mushrooms a day. It also includes a wide range of variety.” – says Hiresha.
Setting up HAN AGROCARE:
Finally, in 2019, she set up Han Agrocare. This would help the farmers get better retail and commercial platform to sell their produce.
“I started mushroom farming on a small patch of land last year. It has ensured a stable source of income and a safety net in case I incur heavy damage from other crops on the farm.”- says Beena Keerti, a farmer from the Terai district.
Now Han Agrocare is also venturing to produce value-added products like pickles, nuggets, soup, tea, papad, etc. now the overall business earns Rs. 1.5 crore a year.
A SUCCESSFUL VENTURE:
By working with NGOs Hiresha has identified 5000 tribal women who could be trained to cultivate mushrooms. Hiresha has given all her devotion to this project. “When I started the initiative, friends and family laughed at me and were sure that I could never succeed. They mocked me, saying that I would have to dirty my hands in cow dung. But today, I have earned success for myself and thousands of women, which makes me proud,” she says.
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES:
Hiresha wants to put the utmost effort into Mushroom production, consumption and marketing. Ms. Hiresha Verma with her drive and enterprise, market these home-harvested mushrooms to clients across UAE, USA and East Asia.
For her efforts, she has also received various national and international awards. She has been honored with Women Entrepreneur Award in 2011 and in 2014 along with ISB for Leadership and Management Certificate. She also received the ‘Grassroot Level Women of the Decade Award 2014.’
Hiresha’s efforts are really commendable and have helped so many women earn a sustainable source of living and have a better standard of living.
To know more about them, check https://icar.org.in/content/mushroom-cultivation-pathway-economic-sustainability-doon-valley-uttarakhand
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