June 21, 2023
PHNOM PENH – In the sweltering climate of Cambodia, an unexpected guest thrives under the care of Kheang Vanda — the shiitake mushroom, a species native to colder Asian regions. Vanda has accomplished this unlikely feat through the ingenious use of greenhouses, allowing the delicacy to flourish far beyond its usual habitats.
“Whilst shiitake mushrooms are common in cooler regions like Japan, Korea, and China, I’ve mastered creating greenhouses that mimic these climates, perfect for cultivation,” Vanda explained.
Previously, Cambodia has relied on importing packaged or dried shiitakes, as transporting fresh ones proved unfeasible.
“Cambodia may not be their natural home, but shiitakes are widely enjoyed here, featuring in an array of dishes from wedding banquets to gourmet restaurant menus,” Vanda told The Post.
Founded in 2017, Vanda’s venture, SY Company, has been instrumental in developing greenhouses for cool-temperature and livestock farming. SY’s greenhouses cleverly use insulation on roofs and walls, maintaining the necessary cool temperatures and mitigating external heat for successful mushroom cultivation.
Incorporating the cultivation of shiitake mushrooms into their farming model has paved the way for other crops that prefer cooler climates, providing local businesses with a constant supply of fresh produce. Huong Sophorn, SY’s Managing Director, emphasised their farming model’s versatility, facilitating additional activities like establishing mango and milk processing facilities.
“A precise blend of crushed rubber wood and yeast nurtures the growth of the mushrooms. The growing period typically takes four to five days, necessitating the maintenance of an ideal temperature range of 16-18 degrees Celsius and high humidity for successful cultivation,” Sophorn detailed.
Situated in the Kob Srov area in Prek Pnov district, Phnom Penh, a modest greenhouse measuring 6×8 meters produces an impressive daily yield of 30 to 40 kilograms of shiitake mushrooms, illustrating the effectiveness of this novel cultivation process.
Equally important to temperature control, Vanda said that cleanliness and regular sanitisation of clothing for those entering and exiting the greenhouse ensures a hygienic environment for mushroom cultivation, maintaining the quality and safety of the mushrooms.
Sophorn acknowledges another challenge related to the energy expenditure required to operate the cooling system and maintain the desired temperature within the greenhouse.
“We strongly recommend our farmers install solar energy systems to reduce reliance on grid energy. Such initiatives offer not only environmental sustainability but also potential for additional income.”
Thanks to the introduction of greenhouses and stringent cleanliness measures, Vanda has enabled local farmers to diversify their crops, bolster their income, and contribute to the nation’s fresh produce supply. The cultivation of shiitake mushrooms has shown how innovative farming methods can adapt to market demands, ensuring a steady supply of high-quality, local produce.
Currently, the daily yield of about 40 kilograms of mushrooms is enough for two supermarkets. However, Sophorn highlights that farmers can adopt this method by constructing small greenhouses to cultivate mushrooms.
“We use a vertical growing technique, similar to supermarket shelves, allowing us to cultivate mushrooms in multiple levels, minimising space requirements,” Sophorn added.