Back to the Roots 2009

Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora during their last semester at UC Berkeley in 2009. Two months away from graduation, and heading into the corporate world of investment banking & consulting, they came across the idea during a class lecture of being able to potentially grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages & fresh, local food, they experimented in Alex's fraternity kitchen, ultimately growing one test bucket of tasty oyster mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. With that one bucket, some initial interest from Whole Foods & Chez Panisse and a $5,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor for social innovation, they decided to forget the corporate route, and instead, become full-time urban mushroom farmers! Inspired by the idea of producing local, fresh food from what was an urban waste stream, Back to the Roots has since grown to create the Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden which lets anyone, across the country, grow their own gourmet mushrooms at home as well!

Growing mushrooms from used coffee grounds
Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora during their last semester at UC Berkeley in 2009. Two months away from graduation, and heading into the corporate world of investment banking & consulting, they came across the idea during a class lecture of being able to potentially grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages & fresh, local food, they experimented in Alex's fraternity kitchen, ultimately growing one test bucket of tasty oyster mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. With that one bucket, some initial interest from Whole Foods & Chez Panisse and a $5,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor for social innovation, they decided to forget the corporate route, and instead, become full-time urban mushroom farmers!
Inspired by the idea of producing local, fresh food from what was an urban waste stream, Back to the Roots has since grown to create the Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden which lets anyone, across the country, grow their own gourmet mushrooms at home as well!
Every morning, pounds and pounds of freshly used coffee grounds are delivered to BTTR’s warehouse in Oakland – most from Peet’s locations throughout the East Bay.
To get the grounds to the right moisture level, BTTR uses a refashioned wine press. If you look carefully, you can see a few coffee spots on the ceiling! The press is surprisingly powerful!
Coffee filters are shredded and mixed with the grounds, the grounds and mushroom spawn are mixed together in individual bags, and those bags are left to incubate for a period of time.
By the day each kit leaves the BTTR warehouse, it is ready to produce beautiful mushrooms from whatever kitchen, classroom, or office it ends up!
 
Photograph at Back to the Roots in California 2012
Thanks to Alex & Nikhil
www.backtotheroot.com
 
by Feng Haoyu
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