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Circular and social enterprise fungi

Posted on 25 March 2016.

Recycling coffee grounds to grow oyster mushrooms while incorporating a social enterprise dimension into the project - the successful gamble taken by “La Boite à Champignon” and its mushroom boxes.

With Upcycle’s mushroom boxes, in just two weeks you will start harvesting gray or yellow oyster mushrooms in your kitchen - ready to eat!

Sprouting up everywhere like mushrooms... The saying perfectly describes LBAC, which is all about creative re-use. It all began in 2011. An agricultural economist, Cédric Péchard decided to produce ultra-fresh foods from urban bio-waste.

He decided to grow mushrooms using recycled coffee grounds – which have already been pasteurized as they pass through the coffee and vending machines in the Île-de-France where they are collected.

With Grégoire Bleu’s knowledge of urban agriculture and Arnaud Ulrich’s work on mushroom boxes, the project gradually took form.

In 2012, the first urban mushroom farm was set up in Paris, in an old refrigerated container. The principle is simple. Coffee grounds, mycelium and sawdust are enclosed in big bags. And a few weeks later, they produce oyster mushrooms.

The first harvest was of such high quality and taste that it attracted top chefs such as Yannick Alléno and the Collège Culinaire de France. The brand Monte Cristo oyster mushrooms was created in 2013. It has even been found on the menu at the Élysée palace! In 2014, Upcycle settled in the heart of Rungis market and now delivers to nearly 1500 Parisian restaurants.

A circular social enterprise economy

From the outset, the company wanted to add a social dimension to its environmental project. This meant hiring people with difficulties through the Ateliers Sans Frontières organization.

After the mushroom box "for Dummies" prepared in Île-de-France for easy home grown mushrooms, in 2015 LBAC launched a new version, which uses your own coffee grounds. Once you have 600 g of coffee grounds, LBAC sends you the mycelium. You can then begin growing and within a fortnight you’ll be harvesting your first crop of gray or yellow oyster mushrooms.

And the recycling doesn’t stop there because what remains acts as a soil amendment (a substance added to soil to improve crop quality) which can be used to fertilize flowers and vegetable gardens.

In 2016, LBAC clearly stated its ambitions: 1000 tons of recycled coffee grounds, 80% of sales within 10 km of the "U-Farm" (urban farms), 100 metric tons of oyster mushrooms grown, work for 10 people on assisted work schemes and additional income for 20 partner market gardeners.

The start-up wants to replicate the model in other French cities and says that 30 m2 will produce 5 metric tons of mushrooms a year!

A healthy product, distributed locally and designed using household waste is the socially responsible, civic and ecological equation that the LBAC inventors are continuing to develop.