Categorized | Environment, Sci-Tech

Blue Economy: Coffee biomass waiting for entrepreneurs


More than 99 percent of the biomass that remains after harvesting, processing, roasting and brewing coffee is discarded. An estimated 12 million tons of agricultural waste from worldwide coffee production rots and generates millions of tons of methane gas, contributing to climate change.

Professor Gunter Pauli, founder of Zero Emissions Research & Initiatives (ZERI) and author of “The Blue Economy” shares his third of 100 innovations, that coffee biomass provides the ideal medium to stimulate the growth of mycelium – mushroom spawns.

According to one of Hong Kong’s leading fungi scientists, Professor Shuting Chang, the world market for mushrooms surpassed $17 billion in 2008. Demand, especially for tropical varieties such as shiitake, maietake and ganoderma, has seen double digit growth for decades. Pauli sees potential for tropical fungi to outpace coffee and metals as a world commodity within a generation.

Quality tropical mushrooms are farmed on hardwoods like oak. Hardwood trees are harvested, ground, and converted into artificial logs. It takes up to nine months to fruit shiitake or ganoderma. In coffee production, prunings, husks, pulp, and after brewing, grounds are by-products. All are enriched with caffeine.

This biochemical has been proven to stimulate the growth of mycelium and mushrooms pop out as quickly as three months after seeding. This generates more rapid cash flow and offers a competitive alternative to traditional mushroom farming techniques.

Moreover, the leftovers after harvesting mushrooms are enriched with essential amino acids, including lysine which can be converted into quality animal feed for farm cattle or pets at home.

In 2009, more than 100 companies in the Colombian coffee region of El Huila began taking coffee waste and converting methane-producing biomass into revenue generating fungi.

According to the Hawaii Coffee Association, there are 6,500 acres planted in coffee statewide from small family farms to large mechanized estates. Annual production is 6 to 7 million pounds green bean. Among the growers is Doutor Coffee, the “Starbucks of Japan,” with a large growing operation on Big Island.

Pauli projects that such companies may be delighted to have their reputation for quality extended to the quality of mushrooms farmed from their coffee waste while generating new product and jobs. There is potential added value generated for all partners since restaurants and cafes would pay for disposing of the raw material (coffee grounds) while paying to offer mushroom delicacies on their menus.

The World Congress on Zero Emissions Initiatives – Launching “The Blue Economy” is slated Sept. 13-17, 2010 at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. The Congress will focus on design of an economic system driven by innovations, generating jobs and building social capital.

The Blue Economy is based upon 100 plus breakthroughs in businesses that have proven their competitiveness. The innovations being addressed at the World Congress are related to Energy, Food, Health, Housing, Transportation, Waste and Water, and how these innovations integrate and provide new job opportunities in today’s changing world. Concrete case studies from around the world will inspire entrepreneurs to follow suit.

An added aspect of this particular World Congress and its location in Hawaii is the opportunity to integrate protocols of the host Hawaiian culture and the opportunity for delegates to learn from a prosperity model of ancient Hawaii known as the ahupuaa system.

Furthermore, this Congress will set new levels of close to zero waste at the Hawaii Convention Center while establishing best practices and standards for future conferences, conventions and meetings including locally-sourced food offerings during the Congress dates. Pre and post World Congress opportunities on all Hawaiian Islands will allow delegates to experience actual innovations while also enjoying much of what Hawaii has to offer.

Sponsors of The World Congress on Zero Emissions Initiatives – Launching “The Blue Economy” include CT & T America, the world’s largest producer of electrical vehicles; First Wind, focused exclusively on the development, ownership and operation of wind energy projects; Blue Planet Foundation, seeking to foster systemic change in how Hawaii generates and uses energy; Hawaiian Electric Company, committed to meeting the long-term energy needs of Hawaii; Puna Geothermal Venture, the only commercial producer of geothermal energy in Hawaii; and SOPOGY, focused at developing the new sector of solar known as Micro-Scaled Concentrating Solar Power or “MicroCSP.”

Early registration is open until April 15. Register online at:

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