Niklas Blum, Julia Maier
Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
caffungo aims to create fair job opportunities for people at risk of social exclusion by growing oyster mushrooms for the local gastronomy on recycled coffee grounds. The project is not only super local, but also does good for the environment, supports local agriculture, secures regional value chains, and creates fair jobs.
The project was developed for and with the residents of the “House of Solidarity” (HoS) in Bressanone and later partnered up with the “Bühlerhof”, which brought the necessary expertise for cultivation and contacts for food distribution into the project. The concept can be seen as a blueprint for social actors, also in other regions, that want to join forces to create fair employment opportunities and grow local mushrooms. To do so, we researched, tested and finally summarized all the required information in a handbook. It includes knowledge about cultivation processes, concepts for the farm’s structure and ideas for the future such as marketing strategies.
The HoS shelters a diverse mix of people with different difficulties, like homelessness, addiction or refugee status. Therefore, the project must meet important requirements that result from their specific life circumstances. Language independence, opportunities for personal and professional development, solidary working conditions and independence from previous knowledge were considered.
caffungo aims to fulfill all these points while being at the same time as low-tech and sustainable as possible – for people as well as the environment. caffungos crops grow in reusable buckets on a substrate made from collected coffee waste of the local gastronomy. When coffee is prepared, less than 1 % of the biomass ends up in the cup. The leftover coffee is an ideal growing substrate as it still contains many nutrients even after brewing. By processing only local resources in a closed production cycle, caffungo creates a close relationship between the employees, the local gastronomy, and its food.
To ensure that the concept would work on the local market, we conducted a survey analysing the gastronomy’s response to our idea. A competitor analysis helped us position caffungo in the market and confirmed the locally unique concept. To not only assess the situation on the market but also the current state of the HoS residents, we conducted interviews and compiled an overview of their backgrounds, feelings, hopes and work experiences. After receiving a lot of positive feedback, from the gastronomy as well as from the potential workers from the Hos, we created a colourful caffungo branding. The mushroom stamps designed by the HoS residents, which were the result of a co-design workshop, became a central design element of the corporate design.
Furthermore, we were able to gain a lot of knowledge through cultivation experiments at our homes, which we then successfully tested by preparing six growing buckets together with a potential future caffungo employee at the Bühlerhof.
Overall, we hope that caffungo will grow, ideally leading to stable jobs for the inhabitants of the HoS and contribute to a more sustainable gastronomy.