[100 Emerging Women Leaders] This agri-entrepreneur is building a community of mushroom enthusiasts
Agri-entrepreneur, Prithvi Kini is on a mission to bridge the gap between mushrooms and consumers with value-added mushroom products.
, a mushroom lifestyle brand, came about when Prithvi Kini was in the process of switching jobs. The food space in particular seemed to intrigue her.
She also enjoyed the startup ecosystem. Being part of the founding team of a cybersecurity startup—QNu Labs, she witnessed enterprise functioning first-hand.
“Predictability is not very certain, but the adventure of building something, nurturing it right from the beginning is highly rewarding,” she says.
She left behind her techie past, to continue as a yoga teacher and as an entrepreneur in agriculture. Her fascination with sustainable food systems aided in setting up Nuvedo in 2021.
To Kini, sustainable food systems have a role to play in the lives of the upcoming generations. She was particularly interested in the nutrition and holistic values these systems carry.
This eventually led her to study permaculture design. “In permaculture or permanent agriculture, you learn to develop sustainable systems and interact with the natural environment and other organisms in the space,” she says.
While pursuing this course, she came across fungi. The more she delved into it, the more she realised that not many people were engaging in fungi cultivation—and this was a surprise to her.
“Fungi have a large role to play in the ecosystem. Mushrooms that part of the fungi kingdom are nutritious, low water intensive, they can be grown vertically, and do not require much land,” she says, adding that cultivation of mushrooms is both challenging and technical as each variety of mushrooms brings with it certain constraints.
Simply put, Kini's aim is to acquaint people with the functional benefits of mushrooms.
“The idea was to bring a new perspective to something that has been around for millennia, long before humans ever existed,” she explains.
“We can understand and explore these in the capacity of our current food systems and adapt them for our environment. This is something that we do - we play, work with genetics, with strains that can be used within India,” she adds.
Currently, the team is looking into extracting the functional benefits within these mushrooms and give them to people in a form that makes sense, she reveals.
A self-proclaimed “avid trekker”, she often finds herself striking a balance between managing Nuvedo, teaching yoga, and pursuing her interests.
When it comes to biases in professional settings, Kini sheds light on how sometimes people may feel uncomfortable by the idea of a woman in a strong position, an experience that she witnessed first-hand in the beginning of her career.
“Sometimes you are not taken seriously. You may have to explain yourself a bit more than, say, a man in the same role or someone with the same experience," she says.
In the field of agriculture, she has experienced a sense of dismissiveness in her conversations with vendors and farmers involved. However, she does believe that things are changing for the better, “People are adapting a lot more to seeing women in leadership roles,” she says.
According to her, the easiest way to deal with biases is to call them out in the first instance, “If you find a bias and you are experiencing it at that moment, catch it there and quickly change the narrative,” she says.
As for advice she would give women leaders, Kini says, “If anybody tells you not to do something, it is probably their insecurity being thrown at you. You should go out and do it.”
“People told me not to get into yoga and mushrooms. Everyone will tell you not to do it. [If you fail] worst case would be starting from scratch. It will be harder, but that hardship will also make you learn and make you stronger. Believe that there are no biases, go out there, and if anybody tells you not to do it, go do it,” she adds.
Disclaimer: This story has been updated to correct factual errors.
Edited by Akanksha Sarma