Coffee Granules to Gourmet Mushrooms

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Once again BioWise, spearheaded by Sue Swain proves that adopting the upcycling principles of nature will always result in a win-win situation.
Any person who has met Swain will agree that she is a true example of somebody who lives, eats and sleeps the principles of biomimicry. According to the Oxford Dictionary, biomimicry relates to: “The design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modelled on biological entities and processes.
This time Swain and BioWise, has instigated the use of used coffee granules from restaurants across Knysna to propagate and grow the delicious gourmet oyster mushroom. “I first read about such projects in the Blue Economy book by Gunter Pauli and then came across the “backtotheroots” website where students in the United States had seen the opportunity and seized it,” explained the passionate biomimicry practitioner Swain.
The project, according to Sue was initiated after Pick n Pay Oyster Festival organisers approached her on how to apply some of the Naturally Knysna principles to the festival.
“In nature, there is no such thing as waste – every bit of waste produced in an ecosystem is ‘food’ for something else. Learning from and applying this lesson should be a key feature of the festival. Discussions then led to us identifying that coffee is a big seller at festival time and coffee ‘waste’ therefore a big opportunity to showcase how we can turn waste into a resource,” she explained.
“From there it became a joint effort by BioWise and Knysna Tourism to see how we could promote it as a concept and conduct some research that would then assist the development of an entrepreneurial opportunity.”
Planning on how to undertake this project started in April and the research, such as how much coffee granule waste is generated in Knysna, is currently underway. “We will continue with the research through to September in order to give us an idea of the amount of waste generated in and out of season. This will then provide potential entrepreneurs with data they would need to determine the full business opportunity and potential.”
BioWise has committed that by this time next year they would like to see an established SMME growing the oyster mushrooms from the coffee waste generated in Knysna, which would then bring added value to next year’s Oyster Festival.
The mushroom spores will initially be supplied by Funguys, a Rheenendal mushroom-growing company that currently use sawdust waste as a substrate for growing Shiitake mushrooms. “Once the operation is up and running, I believe that mushroom-roots can then be used from the spent substrate itself which then speeds up the growing process,” explained Swain.
“Knysna has to evolve by adapting within our new environment, recognising our niches and optimising opportunities within these niche areas to create opportunity,” said Knysna Tourism CEO, Greg Vogt. “This project demonstrates completely the up-cycling process as well as the principles of our town’s brand: Naturally Knysna,” he added.
As this project is still in its research no entrepreneurs have yet been identified but Swain assured interested parties that BioWise “will certainly be available to assist, particularly in helping them to ensure their entire business model is based on natural systems thinking, thereby ensuring a truly resilient and thriving business.”
She added that marketing would also be something that both Knysna Tourism and BioWise can provide as part of a mutually beneficial relationship with the mushroom-growing enterprise.
“BioWise is passionate about inspiring and enabling positive change by promoting the practice of biomimicry. One of our main visions is for the town of Knysna to function as waste-free, efficiently and effectively as a forest. In a forest, all organisms are busy (employed) meeting their own needs while meeting the needs of the system of which they are part. Can you imagine the opportunities that exist if we can start to look at waste differently? Can you imagine the job generation potential if, as a town, we decided to no longer throw any of our waste away, but to rather turn every bit of that waste into a resource. The ‘coffee granules to gourmet mushrooms’ project highlights the opportunities – the rest is up to our imagination, ingenuity, passion and commitment as a town to learn from and emulate nature’s successful blueprint, to come together and collectively make a difference and to truly be a town where ‘nature and people prosper’,” Swain concluded.

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