Short description of the business or initiative
The project “De la cave à l’assiette” is based on a circular economy of proximity. It aims to produce mushrooms such as oyster mushrooms or shiitake, from locally collected production residues (used coffee grounds, straw, maize cobs, wood chips, beer duff …), which serve as a substrate to produce mushrooms culture.
This project makes it possible to offer local production of mushrooms to private consumers and restaurateurs in the Basque Country in search of local quality products while enhancing organic residues collected in the area.
It allows to create local employment and to entrust some of the missions to people with disabilities, in order to bring them a personal fulfillment through work, in a controlled and secure context.
The entire project is reflected in a Zero Waste approach, with the collection and recovery of local organic materials on one hand but also the reuse of wooden boxes for packaging, or food buckets for the collection of coffee grounds.
How old were you when you started as entrepreneur?
I started the project two years ago at the age of 40, together with Florence Iparraguirre, but she left the adventure unfortunately end of last year. I am an environmental engineer and have worked for nearly 20 years in local communities to reduce and recover waste. After reading an article in February 2013, I discovered that you can grow mushrooms on coffee grounds and this idea immediately thrilled me … It took some years to realize it, but I had made a lot of investigation.
What support did you have when you became an entrepreneur?
- Advisory by Club Crea Aquitaine (creation and takeover of businesses in the region Aquitaine), mainly networking, accountancy and legal support
- Networking support by Nouvelle Donne Pays basque Landes
- We organised a Crowd-funding in 2018 and obtained 12000€
- The sisters of the Monastery Bernandines at Anglet lend us a farm for our production and sell our mushrooms in their public vegetable-fruit shop
- I didn’t apply for financial support by the region ye
In a few words: Produce food locally using local resources, create an activity, create jobs and reduce waste.
The idea is to work soon in cooperation with an ESAT (a medico-social facility of protected work, reserved for adults in situation of handicap and aiming at their social and professional integration) in order to increase the production and generate stable employment.
KEY CHALLENGES AND SUCCESS FACTORS
What drives your motivation?
I have a background in environmental education, and I defended these issues since a longtime, it’s very important for me to take action and give value to an activity that dynamizes the local life.
Does your job make you compromise with something or make sacrifices?
In the beginning it needs a lot of investment (labor, time, …), you realize that you can’t do everything alone, that you need to divide the tasks (administration, communication, commercialization, production, ….), that you can’t take holidays, because the mushrooms need care 7 days a week. In summer the temperatures are inconvenient, which needs special care. To stay committed to biological production, when the waste residues aren’t all biological.
What does it take to be successful?
Finding a special niche in the market and decide to produce high quality, even though the commercialization is difficult in the beginning.
What are the benefits, both personal and social?
A lot of possibilities for development (we recently started to sell bucket sets ready to cultivate mushrooms at home), the human & social dimension, the creation of local partnerships. It’s rewarding to receive positive feedback about the quality of the mushrooms.
SKILLS AND COMPETENCES
The most relevant skills and competence to perform your initiative/business successfully
You should know the production process from A to Z, even though you can’t do everything alone, you should have the know-how in order to stay the most autonomous possible.
I recommend a training course about mushroom production, but I would even suggest having a diploma in agriculture (not my case). Most people don’t realize the workload and time investment it needs to produce vegetables. If every citizen would make an internship in agriculture, maybe the waste of food could be reduced, because they would be more aware of the production.
- teamwork and division of work
- to find the right balance of producing and selling
- creativity (find new methods, experimentation)
In my case I would say that you should not try to commercialize your product too quickly. It puts you under pressure and you suddenly have a lack of time for experimentation. But it’s difficult to be patient when you try to live from your business, and you don’t have other incomes.