Deep in the Adelaide Hills, you’ll find a peculiar operation going on. Cafes (such as Aldgate’s Fred Eatery) are having their coffee-grind waste transformed, almost magically, into edible mushrooms by Fun Guy Fungi.
Daryl Clarke, IT professional and local green thumb, has created an easy-to-use home system for growing mushrooms called “grow boxes”. Filled with discarded coffee grounds and mushroom spores, these miniature farms ($25 per box) can be kept in your home, where they will eventually spawn blue oyster mushrooms for you to harvest and cook.
If sprayed with water daily, the mushrooms will bloom three to five times over a month, before leaving you with a bag of mushroom compost to use on the garden.
Clarke’s interest in sustainable agriculture began with “aquaponics”, a system in which fish are kept in a closed-circuit system, feeding plants with their waste. While looking to turn this into a commercial venture, he stumbled upon the idea of mushroom farming using coffee waste as the soil. When only one per cent of the coffee bean bio mass ends up in our coffee, it makes sense to put the rest to good use.
“My parents own a bakery, so I’ve always been conscious about how much packaging and food wastage goes on,” says Clarke. “In IT as well, it’s easier to throw things out rather than upkeep them, which is something I’ve always hated. I’d prefer to see businesses smarten up the way they do things … so this side project, all about conscious agriculture, gives me warm fuzzies.
“While I can’t do much about what big tech brands are doing in their factories, I can contribute by running a sustainable business and educating people about food waste.
“Plus, if you can make it easy for people, they’re far more likely to keep it up.”
Fun Guy Fungi has been in the works for three years – in Aldgate and Thornbury in Victoria (where it is headed-up by Clarke’s Melbourne-based business partner, Liam Gerner) – but it will officially launch at the World Environment Fair this weekend at the Wayville Showgrounds.
You can pick up a grow box at the fair, or order one online.