The mushroom men
In the latest of our good food jobs features we meet fun guys, Alexandro and Cesar Rizzo.
How did you get into urban farming?
A love for cooking good, slow food runs through our family, hence the love for fresh ingredients. We always wanted to show that companies could be good, instead of the usual merciless focus on profit.
We were commissioned by Mercato Metropolitano to make something good out of their waste, and mushrooms are the easiest way to start. Lucky enough, most fungi are happy in dark, cold damp places, just like every London basement. Mushrooms grow effortlessly on used coffee grounds and without the need for energy!
How much spent coffee do you collect and how many kilos of mushrooms do you grow?
The size of our farm limits us, so we can only take in around 30kg of coffee per day. We are now getting around 4-5kgs of mushrooms per day, but as we perfect the process we will get more.
Do you mainly sell wholesale or retail?
Right now we sell to nearby delis and restaurants, but we would like to increase the sales to the local community, which will happen as soon as Mercato Metropolitano opens its own farmers’ market.
How much and what sort of space would someone need to set up a small urban mushroom farm?
It depends on the mushrooms you grow, as the sale price determines how much you need to grow to survive. For oysters, I’d say a minimum of 200 square metres.
What is the most rewarding part of this job?
We have gone to great lengths to ensure that our process is as sustainable as possible - by ditching the industry's common practice of growing on single use plastic bags.
What one piece of advice would you offer to someone thinking about setting up a mushrooms farm?
To be good at sales. We always used to focus only on growing sustainably, while now we realise how important it is to sell your produce as well.
What future do you see for more urban mushroom farms in London?
A bright one! They are a healthy and sustainable protein, which is also really tasty. Our ideal would be that each neighbourhood has its very own farm specialised on certain varieties and hopefully owned by the community as shareholders.
Article Number 25 is a London Food Link supporter.
This feature first appeared in The Jellied Eel magazine issue 55, October 2017