Brewing eco-friendly mushrooms from leftover coffee beans
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Brewing eco-friendly mushrooms from leftover coffee beans

Stories/298 , Issues/Environment , Issues/Sustainability
Melbourne VIC, Australia
26th Apr 2018
Brewing eco-friendly mushrooms from leftover coffee beans
Life Cykel grows gourmet, eco-friendly mushrooms from waste coffee grounds.

A few years ago, Ryan Creed and Julian Mitchell were working in health roles in the mines of Western Australia. Their work focused in the areas of sleep, physical health and nutrition. "What was underpinning all of that was healthy, fresh food," he says. "In mining, it's hard to get fresh food."

So they began to brainstorm ways to harness renewable energy and waste products to grow sustainable food. "We thought a lot about how humans and how we're feeding ourselves is having a detrimental effect on the planet," Julian says. 

They discovered mushrooms—protein source that requires very little water. But they took it one step further. They discovered they could grow mushrooms with the help of recycled coffee grounds. "We were turning waste into food," Julian says. "It ticked so many boxes." And Life Cykel was born.

Australia is certainly not at a loss for coffee grounds. Australians consume 6 billion cups of coffee a year, leaving behind tonnes of coffee grounds. When coffee beans are used to brew coffee, only 1 percent of the bean actually ends up in the cups, Julian says. The other 99 percent ends up in a landfill, or, in the case of Life Cykel, a mushroom farm. The resulting mushrooms are delicious, and although they don't taste like coffee, the grounds do add some extra flavor to the mushrooms, says Julian. 

Life Cykel started in Fremantle with a crowdfunded mushroom farm in 2015. "At the start, we were just growing mushrooms in a little cellar, even before we had the farm," Julian says. By Winter 2016, both Julian and Ryan left their full-time jobs to focus on Life Cykel. Later in 2016, they launched a crowdfunding campaign to create a mushroom farm in Melbourne and opened another farm in Noosa. The mushrooms are sold to cafes and restaurants, and Life Cykel is having a hard time keeping up with the demand.

Perhaps the most exciting development, at least for those of us that don't live in Fremantle, Melbourne or Noosa, is the coffee mushroom box that allows anyone to grow their own mushrooms from recycled coffee grounds. "We want everyone growing these mushrooms on their kitchen bench, and we want to make it as easy as possible," says Julian. "It's really about connecting people back to growing their own food."

Recycled coffee grounds are mixed with mushroom spores and packed into a bag in the the mushroom box. When someone receives the box, they cut a hole in the bag, spray water once a day, and mushrooms grow right from the bag. While boxes are great for families looking to easily grow their own food, mushroom boxes have also been used for school fundraisers as a healthier alternative. 

Right now, Life Cykel is using 600 to 900 kilograms of coffee grounds a week between the mushroom boxes and mushrooms farms. But they have even bigger dreams, Julian says. 

They'd love to create a national mushroom network that can create jobs. The idea is that Life Cykel would help people set up micro-farms in their own backyards where they can grow mushrooms to supply to local cafes and restaurants. This would be perfect for a retiree or young professional looking to add supplemental income, Julian says.

Pictured: Life Cykel mushrooms.
Pictured: Life Cykel mushrooms.

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