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Coffee Grounds and Mushrooms Unite!

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In honor of Thanksgiving, a short food-related post to consume.

BTTR Ventures (pronounced Better and as in Back To The Roots) has a thing about mushrooms, while Peet’s Coffee & Tea of course has a very big thing about coffee (and tea). This unlikely duo has joined forces in a clever and delicious waste-to-food recycling venture that produces gourmet mushrooms out of coffee grounds.

Some 16 billion pounds of coffee beans are used each year, most of which eventually wind up in landfills. Cal Berkley Haas School of Business grads Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Aorara founded the company to turn one of the largest waste streams in America into sustainable local food. They do this by using coffee grounds as the substrate to grow different varieties mushrooms.

BTTR donates 10 percent of profits back to the community. In addition, the venture is creating new jobs in local urban areas.

Peet’s, based in Emeryville, CA, is the primary source of BTTR’s coffee grounds.

BTTR oyster and shitake mushrooms are available at select Whole Foods Markets in the San Francisco Bay area. Their mushrooms are also available for online ordering.

BusinessWeek recently selected Velez and Aorara for its Top 25 Entrepreneurs in America Under 25, and they were one of the OG25 – the 25 most innovative start-ups – at Opportunity Green.

Guilt-free coffee and gourmet mushrooms – yum!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Written by William DiBenedetto

25 November, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Sunday feeling: Fungible fungi? Solar dollars?

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Fungible fungi?

There are two guys, Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, who want to line the walls of your home with mushrooms. Instead of getting the mold out they want to put put it to more unique and productive use.

green-styroThis is not something out of Alice in Wonderland, or maybe it is. Anyway they have developed a strong, low-cost biomaterial called Greensulate that could replace the expensive and eco-harmful Styrofoam and plastics used in wall insulation, packaging and other products. This could even be used for wind turbine blades and auto-body panels, the two say.  They even won a Popular Science Invention Award for their efforts.

“We like to call it low-tech biotech,” Bayer says. In the lab, they grow mycelia, the vegetative roots of mushrooms that resemble bundles of white fiber. But instead of soil, the roots grow in a bed of agricultural by-products like buckwheat husks, and those intertwining fibers give the material structural support. The mixture is placed inside a panel (or whatever shape is required) and, after 10 to 14 days, the mycelia develop a dense network — just one cubic inch of the white-and-brown-specked Greensulate insulation contains eight miles of interconnected mycelia strands. The panels are dried in an oven at between 100° and 150°F to stop mycelia growth, and at the end of two weeks, they’re ready to do their thing on the wall.

In 2007, the inventors incorporated under the name Ecovative Design and won $16,000 in funding through the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance. A year later, joined by now-COO Ed Browka and other team members, they took the $700,000 prize at the PICNIC Green Challenge in Amsterdam.

Ecovative, based in Troy, New York, has begun a trial run of Greensulate panels as replacements for insulation in a Vermont school gym. The partners expect to complete all industrial certification and testing by the end of the year.

They enlisted Jeff Brooks of the Timberline Panel Company to advise them on meeting American Society for Testing and Materials standards for building insulation. “If they get to the point where I think they’ll get,” he says, “there’s a chance there would be no reason to use conventional foam products.”

Solar dollars?

On another note entirely and away from dampish shadows and into the sunlight: Cleantech Group’s Neal Dikeman on Friday said his group is “actively looking to buy solar projects and development teams and pipelines. Primarily in the US, but will look elsewhere as well for the right opportunity.”

Contact him at dikeman@janecapital.com “if you are in that sector and looking for capital.”

Written by William DiBenedetto

7 June, 2009 at 8:28 am

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