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Today we sit down with one of the food makers we met at Maker Faire Rome. Antonio Di Giovanni is the mind (and the hands!) behind Funghi Espresso. He’s 32 years old, and graduated in Environmental Management of Rural Landscape in Florence. He is interested in recycling and reusing organic waste, and wants to find alternative techniques for waste management. When we started talking, he immediately said something that impressed me: “Agriculture has a dual function: to produce good and healthy nutritious food for our needs, and to offer environmentally-friendly services to the community. Farming is an act of care towards our landscape and environmental quality.”
When did you realise you had an interesting idea with Funghi Espresso?
The path that led to the creation of Funghi Espresso began in March 2013, when Rossano Ercolini, coordinator of the Research Centre of Zero Waste municipality of Capannori and Goldman Prize winner Prize in 2013, opened a case study on coffee in agriculture fund reuse. From the case study, the Research Centre of Zero Waste, with my collaboration as well, started a pilot project of environmental education called “From coffee to proteins.” We started got more than 200 kids at a local school to start growing mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) as a substrate to be used in coffee grounds. When I looked at their faces and their results, I understood that this process could become something important!
What exactly is Funghi Espresso?
Funghi Espresso is an innovative startup which produces fresh mushrooms in a sustainable and natural way: left-over coffee grounds from bars and restaurants. In addition to the production of fresh mushrooms, Funghi Espresso creates a substrate ready for mushroom cultivation (kit). We aim to empower everybody to start farming, and solve environmental problems as well as educating the community.
Can you describe how you made the first prototype?
Sure! From the case study, the Research Centre of Zero Waste, we created a pilot project of environmental education “From coffee to proteins.” We believed that starting small and putting our idea in the hands of possible final users was a key step to make – and we were right! The pilot was attended by over 200 kids. They played with the prototype, and helped us clearly highlight its strengths and weaknesses.
Can you share with us what drove you to start this project, and, more important, what kept you focused during difficult moments?
Well, this is an easy one: my passion for sustainable management of organic waste and organic agriculture! I have a long vision and I believe in it – this is what makes me run every day.
How could other makers use your creation?
Funghi Espresso is an open source project, as it is based on educational training and courses. It is a kit that enables everybody to start their own mushroom production. It also provides open knowledge and classes to make people reuse their home coffee grounds for making mushrooms. Makers: you are all ready to go – start growing your own mushrooms by reusing your coffee grounds!
How are you impacting our society?
Thanks to the Funghi Espresso project, we are reducing organic waste, producing healthy food, and creating new jobs that spread good local practices. We hope to be an inspiration for other makers!