Urban Vertical Mushroom Farms at ARCAM Food and Architecture Fair – 1st place Jury selection

Jacques Abelman | groundcondition in collaboration with Marijke Bruinsma | de Stuurlui stedenbouw

MushroomWall aims to capture a part of the urban waste stream in the form of used coffee grounds and transform it into food— delicious oyster mushrooms. At the same time, the project aims to make the process of recuperation, transformation, and harvesting visible by locating it in public space.

Our point of departure was the fact that Amsterdam has over 4000 cafes, hotels, and restaurants that generate around 20,000 kilos of coffee grounds every day. The spent coffee is normally mixed with other trash and landfilled. Mushrooms are such efficient biological machines— 100% bio-efficient according to mycologist Paul Stamets— that a quarter of the mass of the used coffee can become mushrooms. The end product of the growth cycle, besides the protein rich Pleurotus ostreatus, is a rich humus that’s a sort of super-compost.

The vertical growing system uses recycled plastic cylinders placed on the walls of narrow alleys – or stegen– in inner city Amsterdam. The cool, protected alleys are very suitable for mushroom cultivation. Constant conditions are maintained inside the transparent growing cases, and rainwater is used to provide humidity.

Our idea is to partner with restaurants and cafes in central Amsterdam, who can begin to transform their own waste into food that can be used in the kitchen. Cooks will be able to walk out their door to harvest fresh mushrooms on their doorsteps.

We also set out to examine all of the unused urban vertical space that could be potentially used for this specific type of urban agriculture. In addition to capturing and transforming urban waste, MushroomWall will beautify urban space. Ignored and underutilized alleys will become magical, mysterious, and nutritional destinations.

MushroomWall is a simple concept: waste = food. By making this process clearly visible, accessible, and profitable, a new sustainable and cultural cycle is added to urban life.

We showed the MushroomWall project at the “Appetizing Architecture” / ARCAM Food and Architecture Fair on June 22-24 in Amsterdam and were selected as winners from among eight finalist projects.