Did you know that only 0.02 percent of a coffee bean ends up in your morning cup of coffee, with the rest carried off to landfill? Back to the Roots (BTTR) is helping to solve this problem by collecting 20,000 pounds of coffee grounds each week, cultivating them into a rich substrate from which to grow oyster mushrooms and make grow-it-at-home mushroom kits. Available at just one local grocery store in early 2010, BTTR’s sustainable oyster mushroom kits are now in the produce department of the nation’s leading natural and organic food chain, with distribution rapidly expanding to other retailers across the U.S.
BTTR was conceived in 2008, when two undergraduate business majors at UC Berkeley, Alex Velez and Nikhil Arora, heard their business ethics professor mention that gourmet mushrooms could be grown entirely out of coffee grounds. Starting with just 10 buckets of coffee grounds and mushroom spawn, the company grew their first crop of mushrooms in Alex’s fraternity kitchen. Since selling the mushrooms to a local store in early 2010, their operations have since grown to encompass a 10,000-square feet warehouse. In 2011 alone, BTTR expects to recycle and reuse one million pounds of coffee grounds in kit production.
The kits are available online and at retail outlets nationwide, including specialty produce stores, full-service grocery stores and home goods retailers. Comments Alex, “We’ve been merchandising the kits across the country, and have seen huge consumer enthusiasm for something people can grow on their own, even if they don’t have space for a garden.” Moreover, there’s an important message attached. Says Nikhil, “We’re taking the concept of recycling and reusing into homes in North America and teaching kids in a very fun and hands-on way about sustainability.”
While oyster mushrooms are one of the most commonly used mushrooms in foodservice, their short shelf life has made it difficult to sell in grocery stores. BTTR’s mushroom kit conquers this problem, and at the same time meets the growing demand of consumers to grow their own food at home. Each kit, which has no retail shelf life, contains a ready-to-grow bag and a small, child-friendly mister. A consumer just has to make a slit in the bag, place the kit in a windowsill and mist twice a day. Little mushroom pinheads appear by Day 7, with size doubling every day after that, and mushrooms ready for harvest by Day 10. Each kit promises anywhere from 2-4 harvests (roughly one pound of mushrooms), with replacement bags available online.
Oyster mushrooms have a mild flavor and delicate, velvety texture which works well in pastas, skewers, soups, salads… just about anything. Beyond their great taste, oyster mushrooms are also packed with nutrition—14 percent of the DV of dietary fiber, a rich source of iron and other essential amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin B complex and most of the mineral salts required by the human body.
Beyond their work with retailers, BTTR has developed a strong youth outreach program. Committed to engaging kids in the growing process, BTTR works with numerous schools, giving presentations and workshops, as well as building the kit into school curriculums. In addition, they have developed a premium soil amendment from the waste left behind by the coffee ground substrate, donating a substantial amount of this soil to schools and using it to both create and sustain urban high school gardens.
What’s next for BTTR? Named as one of Business Week’s top 25 Social Entrepreneurs in 2010, BTTR plans to continue on their path of sustainability. In addition to packaging their premium soil amendment (now available at select retailers in Northern California), they are also researching other grow-it-at-home kits that will transform the way people grow herbs, fruits and vegetables. Step by step, they’re making it easy and fun for consumers to follow the path of sustainability.
This press release is presented without editing for your information. The Herb Companion does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.