I watch as a half dozen oyster mushrooms, each the size of a spread palm, are pulled away from where they’re fruiting out of a cardboard box. Inside the box is a mixture of recycled card and mushroom spores, but mostly, it contains used coffee.
Adam is the founder of GroCycle, started to find a solution to what happens with the used coffee grounds from the UK’s 80 million daily cups of coffee. “Almost all of it ends up in landfill,” he says, “but it’s not really a waste product, coffee is very nutrient-rich, and we saw that as an opportunity we were missing out on.”
The more you listen and the more like a silver bullet the idea begins to sound. “Most protein in our diet comes from meat, which often means valuable feed, water and land is given to animals instead of humans.” Grocycle grow high protein mushrooms from a huge untapped waste stream, and with more people living in cities than the country, it seems to make sense to grow food nearer the places where it’s eaten.
I ponder questions, each one batted back with a smile. No… the mushrooms don’t taste of coffee. Yes… the kits are totally idiot-proof, you just spray some water on them each day. What’s most apparent is that, for all the good intentions, GroCycle are no hippies. The branding is stylish, and there’s no attempt to preach. A former runner-up at The Observer’s Ethical Awards, Adam is taking a break from helping to set up their first urban farm, in central Exeter, where local cafes will soon be having their coffee grounds turned into gourmet oyster mushrooms.
I ask if GroCycle can save the world, but you quickly sense that Adam’s been asked the question before, that he doesn’t take it seriously. “Sure, it’s nice to think you’re making a positive difference in something… but really, it’s just a great concept, we want to see how far we can take it.”