Visiting a mushroom farm was the first project that I got to document with Masyarakat Mandiri. To be honest, I thought it was going to be a really complex farming system with machines and other expensive equipment, but to my surprise, it was one of the simplest set-ups that I’ve ever come across. As an agriculture student at Aberystwyth University, we’ve been shown various farming methods, all of which involved massive land areas and huge machinery. Most of the work was carried out by either robots, or people operating machines. Here in Bogor, Indonesia however, it was the complete opposite. They had a very small area to farm in, and had no machinery whatsoever. Everything was manual work. The results however, were really impressive.
What you see above is a cluster of Pleurotus ostreatus – the kind that was being grown in the farm. They are commonly known as Oyster mushrooms and are the largest types of edible mushrooms produced all over the world. Depending on the place and the type of climate, they are grown in different ways. This may involve growing them on a piece of wooden log, or in bags. The farm that I visited grew them in small bags that were filled with substrates (materials from which the mushroom grows), pasteurised, and then left in large sheds at monitored temperatures and humidity.
The mushrooms are usually grown in substrates that are in the bags. The substrates here are sawdust based. The reason why sawdust is used as a substrate is due to its large availability throughout the year. The mixing is done manually by workers. The mixed ingredients are put in 2 litre bags and pressed to so called bag logs of about 1 kilogram. The bags have an opening at the top, which is made with a PVC ring and is closed with a cotton-wool plug. These bag logs are put on platforms above water in drums, which starts the pasteurisation process.
After pasteurisation, the log bags are moved into the growing units (in this case, a shed) for 4 weeks. They are placed on bamboo shelves. The construction of the growing units is rather primitive, made mainly of bamboo. Roofing is of tiles or mats. Concrete floors are rare and therefore water cannot be used for cleaning. Having been placed in the growing unit, the cotton-wool plugs of the bag logs are removed. After a few days the first fruiting bodies appear. When the mushroom clusters are large enough they will be picked and just sold as a cluster. Harvesting will be done over a minimum period of three weeks but most of the time, up to six weeks. At present, the mushrooms are put in plastic bags to be transported to the market. Some improvements on this, by putting them in cartons to avoid bruising, are being implemented. Even though the costs of the growing units are low due to their primitive construction, it is still an expensive investment for many Indonesians. In the images below, you can see how primitive the construction of the growing units are.
What’s interesting to note here is the fact that upon growing the mushrooms, the substrates are not thrown away, but are recycled. They are used as fertilisers for growing vegetables in a small farm land just behind the mushroom growing units. I was taken to the small farming area and shown the process of recycling. In the image below, you can see the used bag logs with the substrates still present in them, and the use of the substrates as fertilisers.