The Mushrooming of A Cause: PREETI RATHORE & MAANVEER SHEKHAWAT on Organic Farming
Ex-engineer Preeti Rathore and marketing professional Maanveer Shekhawat are making headlines as Pink City’s most power-packed couple and for good reason. The two resigned from their conventional jobs in order to invest themselves fully in their joint passion for sustainable farming. Both Rathore and Shekhawat have found their calling in natural quests since their childhood years, and fate had its way of aligning them with their mutually treasured cause. After quitting his corporate job, Shekhawat steered towards becoming a restauranteur, while Rathore set up her home bakery label. Shortly after turning five, their firstborn was diagnosed with Celiac disease. What began as extensive research to chart out an organic path to their son’s healing ended up in a pathbreaking decision that altered their family’s lives altogether.
Rathore in particular was tremendously drawn to the nutritional value of oyster mushrooms, a lesser-known variant of commercial toadstools such as button mushrooms, porcini, and shiitake mushrooms. A German measure for subsistence during the first World War, oyster mushrooms have gained worldwide repute for their environmental adaptability and medicinal value. Not only would Rathore’s organic mushroom harvest provide the ideal health supplement for her son, but also made for a niche grocery item for her husband’s restaurant inventory. By then the parents of two, Rathore and Shekhawat headed to Himachal Pradesh, where they received professional training for digital mushroom farming. Afterwards, they returned to lay the foundations of their very own organic farming initiative, which they named Ambrosia, a Greek word translating into the food that conferred longevity and even immortality to all those who consumed it.
“Our business idea is to provide food that is healthy and free of harmful chemicals. We started our farm in 2019 and took our kids along to grasp practical knowledge around our venture. I would say Ambrosia isn’t just a farm, it’s an emotion that lives through us and our dedication towards quality. A sustainable lifestyle is derived out of wholesome food that also cultivates to the Earth’s benefit”, says Preeti Rathore. As the first success story in Jaipur’s organic mushrooming ventures, the couple lays key emphasis on the twin benefits of their agricultural venture, which attends to the global issues of malnutrition, unemployment, and environmental degradation simultaneously. They add, “To begin with, the agricultural advantage of mushrooms is its perennial nature and versatility. Mushrooms thrive even in areas that suffer a shortage of land and water. Vertical farming with in-room racks is an excellent alternative for conditions of land and water scarcity and is cost-effective too. Furthermore, mushrooms are guarantors of zero waste farming, for their post-harvesting agro-waste needn’t be burnt at all. In fact, it is ideally re-used for mulching purposes, thereby restoring the soil’s depleted carbon content without generating any toxic emissions or fumes."
Given India’s deplorable ranking of 94th out of 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index Survey published in October 2020, the Indian government has added mushrooms as a regular component of children’s mid-day meal schemes. A cheap and vegetarian derivative of protein, mushrooms make for a promising contender in our nation’s battle against malnutrition. Even in the more premium food sectors, mushrooms are reclaiming their forgotten status as nutritional powerhouses. Ironically, mushrooms serve as an effective solution for those contending with obesity, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, endocrine disorders. Mushrooms eliminate the body’s free radicals and strengthen one’s immune system. Rathore further adds, ”Oyster mushrooms are truly mouthwatering and their distinct texture makes them the meat of the vegetarian world. Mushrooms, in general, can be adapted across multiple dining formats, from soups, salads and entrees to pickles, fermented beverages and seasonings”.
Their personal pledge to cultivate an organic and sustainable lifestyle brought their son’s Celiac disease under control, and Rathore has succeeded in reversing her thyroid dysfunction. “We believe in leading by example; my thyroid problems are cured by switching to organic products and a sustainable lifestyle. Making these small lifestyle changes helps not only us, but also benefits the environment. We hope to create a better world such that our children can inherit a safer planet from us”, she elaborates.
Recently, the global outspread of Coronavirus caused Ambrosia to diversify their product line. Their range of oyster mushroom products multiplied into raw, sun-dried, and powdered variants, and the duo also conducted awareness drives that expanded consumer knowledge beyond the standard button mushroom variant. These, they package in biodegradable containers. They have also conducted online training programs for potential mushroom cultivators. Rathore and Shekhawat ensure us of constituting the ideal household that segregates their waste into dry and wet sections. The former is used to make compost while the latter’s plastic waste is remodeled to create eco-bricks. “We started to undertake these measures at home and are now generating awareness around the realistic possibility of cutting down one’s carbon footprint through measures that are elementary and simple”, they jointly conclude.