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When mushroom dreams come true

“WHEN you can make some money doing what you love, you can be one of the few to say “life is beautiful”, says mushroom farmer Ooi Pei Ning, 25.
During her university days, Ooi researched mushrooms.
She earned a degree in agricultural science, found a passion for growing edible fungi, and then the reality of making a living nudged her to get a job as an office administrator.
But her dream to be a mushroom entrepreneur lives on.
Every seven to 10 days, she harvests about 200kg of oyster mushrooms and sells them wholesale to market traders, vegetarian restaurants, friends and neighbours.
“I learnt so much about fungi cultivation on campus so this is my dream come true. It’s not hard work. I enjoy going to my barn at night after work to check on the mushrooms,” said the Universiti Malaysia Sabah graduate.
She harvests her mushrooms late into the night and sends them to her retailers early in the morning before she goes to the office so that her customers get truly farm fresh produce.
She said the retail price of oyster mushrooms is between RM12 and RM18 per kilo and she offers attractive ex-farm prices to push off her produce quickly. Expansion plans for the farm are underway.
Ooi has also packaged a DIY oyster mushroom box and wants to sell it as an educational tool.
“This would be for kindergartens and schools. Children are too much into technology and smartphones. I believe they can learn to appreciate nature if they have the chance to grow oyster mushrooms that they can eat,” she said.
Ooi’s lucky break came from Koperasi Petani Muda Malaysia (KPMM), which sponsored 400 mushroom spawning bags in June.
She scaled up so quickly that KPMM chairman Datuk Chong Sin Woon was impressed and dropped by her barn recently to sign a plaque to mark the birth of her startup company, Happy Mushroom Grower Enterprise.
Chong, who is also MCA Youth chief, encouraged youths to get involved in agricultural projects on a part-time basis to increase their income.
KPMM was formed by MCA Youth. Chong said the cooperative will provide technical assistance and guidance on marketing.
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