Farmer Lee Mei-ling (李美玲) has revived the mushroom industry in Changhua County’s Jhutang Township (竹塘) after adding modern facilities to her traditional mushroom farm.
The township had been Taiwan’s No. 1 producer of mushrooms until 20 years ago, when it fell behind other regions that were using improved techniques to grow larger mushrooms.
The township steadily declined as a producer until it was seen as a source of cheap agricultural products.
Photo: Chen Kuan-pei, Taipei Times
However, Lee 13 years ago set off on a path that would eventually make Jhutang Township a renowned producer of mushrooms once again.
She started by renovating an old warehouse used for growing mushroom by installing air-conditioning and an environmental management system.
Lee was soon able to grow mushrooms larger than any ever grown in the township, and began receiving orders from larger markets and wholesalers.
Today, she sells 400kg of mushrooms per day — more than any other Taiwanese producer.
“The characteristics of the land in Jhutang Township, as well as the wet conditions in winter, make it ideal for growing mushrooms,” Lee said.
In the 1980s, there were 400 mushroom farms in the township, each about 50 ping (165m2), but by 20 years ago most of them had closed.
After Lee installed the environmental control system and began seeing success with her new growing techniques, she shared those techniques with others in the township, and today there are 100 thriving farms.
“However, the technology has its limitations. A northeast monsoon can destroy the crop. There are also limits to production quality, which might call for a change to the fermentation process,” she said.
Newer techniques require only 21 days for fermentation, compared with 30 days for more traditional techniques, she said, adding that some growers have also experimented with separating fermentation beds, or using amino acids in the water.
Such techniques could speed up fermentation by another week, which lessens the chance of crop damage from disease or insects, she added.
Modern environmental control systems are more environmentally friendly than the oil heaters previously used by farms, but also consume a lot of power, she said, adding that she has tackled the problem by installing solar panels.
Her farm also recycles the water produced by the air-conditioning units, she added.
The farm would remain focused on ways to further improve production quality, Lee said.
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