Wageningen University & Research: From coffee grounds to oyster mushroom

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Wageningen Campus was the scene of #foodwastefree over this past week. Foodwaste free demonstrations, menus and products were offered to raise awareness of the urgency of waste reduction. Food waste-free is on the menu literally and figuratively, not just this week but continuously. For example oyster mushroom bitterballs, grown on coffee grounds, are offered to visitors to Wageningen Campus.

The Waste-Free week is an initiative of the Together Against Food Waste foundation, a collaboration between businesses, knowledge institutes and civic organisations. WUR is a co-founder and supporting organisation of the foundation.

Waste-free dishes in the spotlight
This week, the organisations on Wageningen Campus highlighted various waste-free dishes on the menu in their restaurants to prompt extra focus on this issue. From banana bread made from overripe bananas to pudding bread made from leftover bread or soup made from the tops and butts of vegetables. But the focus is on reducing food waste throughout the year.

Food waste monitor
Campus caterers use an automated food waste monitor called Orbisk. Orbisk is a green waste bin equipped with scales and a smart camera. Artificial Intelligence is used to analyse the images and recognise what ingredients and how much are discarded at what times during the day. Businesses can use this data to make their purchases more efficient and thus reduce food waste.

Valuable waste products
A fine example of valorising waste products is found in coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are an excellent substrate for the cultivation of oyster mushrooms due to their valuable nutrients and trace minerals. The organisation GRO used the oyster mushrooms grown on coffee grounds to make the oyster mushroom “bitterbal”. This snack is a fixed dish on the Orion menu and is distributed among visitors on the campus by caterer Vermaat during the foodwaste-free week. For Unilever on Wageningen Campus, #foodwastefree is also an important topic. In Unilever’s kitchen, food waste is a key focus, while leftovers are composted.

The waste factory
Foodwaste-free soup made by ‘De Verspillingsfabriek’ is on the menu in education building Aurora. ‘De Verspillingsfabriek’ makes a.o. tomato soup and chilli con carne from leftover vegetables, fruit and meats. In 2015, caterer Hutten launched this initiative in collaboration with experts form Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, based on the mission to salvage as many vegetables as possible and transform them into tasty products.

Zwamcijsje
Moreover, the Zwamcijsje, made by Wageningen start-up UmaMeats, is a daily feature on the Aurora menu. This snack has a filling made from oyster mushrooms and as such, is leaner than other vegetarian “sausage rolls”. Zwamcijsje is a fine example of circular food, with less waste and locally sourced ingredients. Every year, farmland is sown with grain for bread and related products. However, over half of the grain is straw, which is frequently discarded in the field. Mushrooms thrive on straw and convert the straw to vitamin, mineral and protein-rich mushrooms. Thus, straw waste is prevented! The Zwamcijs was conceived by WURstart-up UmaMeats, founded by former student of Plant Sciences, Mendelt Tillema.

Sanne Stroosnijder, programme manager of Food Loss and Waste Prevention and a member of the Together Against Food Waste core team, hopes even more initiatives will join next year’s Waste Free week. Additionally, she wants to discuss with caterers, WUR colleagues, students and other organisations to put waste-free on the map.

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