Description of Challenge
Our main challenge is to decrease the amount of waste primarily from the coffee industry to prevent resourceful waste from being sent to incineration. This in turn decreases the amount of pollution that has a global effect on our biosphere.
We reuse and upcycle coffee grounds and inoculate it with mycelium from oyster mushrooms. This root-like network can absorb nutrients from the coffee grounds and use them to produce oyster mushrooms that have both medical and culinary benefits. This creates a valuable food source that can be grown in all areas of the world, thereby creating a local and sustainable alternative to meat or as an umami tasting ingredient in many dishes.
Mushrooms like oysters can be grown on nearly all wood-like materials and even on invasive species like water hyacinth that diminish biodiversity in many parts of the world.
In addition to this, we are also producing mushrooms that have high levels of protein and vitamin A and B content, while also having immune boosting abilities with a significant effect on limiting HIV and tuberculosis growth and the symptoms from these diseases.
After this wood-like substrate has yielded mushrooms between 2 and 4 times, the mycelium will have turned the coffee grounds into easily available nutrients for livestock, crickets or worms that can compost this. This process of composting turns the substrate into topsoil that can be used in gardens or in commercial farming. Topsoil has diminished significantly within the last 100 years due to our shift to massive farming facilities and monoculture, which depletes the earth from nutrients without bringing anything back for the soil to replenish.
By integrating mushroom growing into already existing farms, the waste materials from trees, grain crops, tea production and much more can be turned into nutrient-rich mushrooms and composted to build soil for the next generations of crops and people to prevent synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers from destroying our biodiversity and body.
We have turned many kilos of coffee grounds into mushrooms and in that way given more value to a waste product, which can then be used in other processes after the mushrooms have been harvested. In the 1.5 years we have been running, we have taken tons of coffee grounds from local festivals, sailing events and restaurants and cafés that has a focus on sustainability to ultimately bring more attention to the value of things we throw away.
This in turn has educated many curious people that have seen our facilities, participated in our workshops and that have followed us through the past year. Our waste has been used as compost in local gardens, meaning everything is circular and reused.
We are delivering environmentally friendly organic mushrooms to restaurants and event makers in Aarhus. Additionally, we are showing the people in Aarhus how you can use a waste product and therefore inspire them to think and act in a more sustainable way by recycling or using waste materials as an input resource to a different process.
For me personally, I have also taken the knowledge I have gathered through this project to teach other people, mostly in Ghana and Cameroon, how to grow mushrooms on local waste resources in their area. By spreading the knowledge you have, you are able to make an impact big enough to change the mindset of today towards sustainability, going away from the linear production method into a circular, local and zero-waste approach.