Adam Sayner and Eric Jong are the guys behind GroCycle, a social enterprise that takes used coffee grounds and turns them into delicious gourmet oyster mushrooms! Just as their Exeter based business is taking off they have been forced to move premises, and to cover the costs they are running a Kickstarter campaign, with great rewards such as grow-your-own mushroom kits. Adam Sayner began his fascination with mushrooms whilst studying ecology at the University of Sussex and was growing mushrooms in the Devon area for a living when he met Eric Jong (who had recently left the corporate world) at Schumacher College.
When did you first come across the idea of growing mushrooms on used coffee grounds?
It was 2011 and I was growing gourmet mushrooms in the traditional way on straw and sawdust as a small business at the time. I came across the idea of growing on coffee grounds online and it was a lightbulb moment as I realised it was a simpler method of growing Oyster mushrooms and made use of all that waste. Overnight I switched focus and have been doing it like this ever since!
What are the practicalities of collecting coffee grounds to create the mushroom farm?
The coffee gets pasteurised in the brewing process which is great for growing mushrooms. But it also means we need to use it whilst it’s still fresh, so we pick up the grounds daily from Exeter’s largest cafes on a cargo bike.
What incentive is there for coffee shops to take part?
Apart from a great story and the personal satisfaction of the staff in each cafe knowing the grounds are going to good use, it also reduces the cost to the cafe of having this part of their waste collected.
Why oyster mushrooms?
Oyster mushrooms are incredible in their ability to grow on many different food sources (paper/card/spent brewery waste – even jeans), and they are the only type that happily grow on pure coffee grounds. They also happen to be some of the easiest mushrooms to grow and taste delicous!
Do you have any other ideas for sustainable urban agriculture?
We’re inspired by a lot of what is going on right now in Urban Agriculture – especially aquaponics systems and growing in abandoned spaces or even underground. It’s the perfect use for space which no one else wants, and it gives the chance to re-connect people with fresh healthy food grown within metres of where they live.
Where are your new premises and what does a mushroom farm look like?
The new premises are also in the centre of Exeter, on the 3rd floor of an office building which has been empty for a while. A mushroom farm basically consists of 2 main grow rooms – one warm and dark like summer, and the other like autumn; cool and damp with lots of fresh air. We build these grow rooms within the existing room and it provides quite a spectacle for people who visit straight off the high street full of shops.
How do people take part on the online course, and what is the best part about growing mushrooms at home?
The online course is made up of 5 main modules and a forum where members from around the world share their experiences and ask questions to help in their learning. Members work through the modules at their own pace and then put the growing into practice wherever they live. There’s currently members in 15 countries around the world! The best thing about growing mushrooms at home is actually just watching them grow – it happens so fast and it’s a wonder of nature. Check out the time lapse video below that a customer of ours made to see what I mean.
Support the Kickstarter campaign here.
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