Coffee Grounds Used To Feed A Hungry City

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Coffee Grounds Used To Feed A Hungry City

In an Australian first, Port Melbourne based coffee company Red Star Roasters has partnered with urban food production company Biofilta, to transform a disused Melbourne carpark into a pop-up espresso bar and thriving vertical urban food garden. The garden is converting the by-product from Melbourne’s unique coffee culture – coffee grounds – into thousands of dollars of fresh edible produce for charity kitchens.

The Red Star Urban Garden Espresso Bar, located at The Holy Trinity Anglican Church at 160 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, features an innovative vertical food garden that uses soil made from composted green waste and coffee grounds, to grow a full range of vegetables and herbs including basil, beans, eggplant, capsicum, kale, lettuce, oregano, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, thyme, tomatoes, zucchinis, beetroot, broccoli, bok choy and many others.

Coffee grounds are collected from the espresso bar, mixed with garden clippings, cardboard packaging, soil and worms to create a rich compost onsite. The compost is then returned to the vertical gardens, to grow food. The produce is then harvested and donated to the South Port Uniting Care’s Food Pantry and Relief Service in South Melbourne. Diane Embry, the Agency’s Chief Executive Officer, says, the donations “enables us to provide fresh produce to people in our community who are experiencing disadvantage, social isolation and homelessness.”

The garden itself is unique – with vertically stacked growing beds that are self-watering and an innovative aeration loop to keep the plants and soil oxygenated and healthy. The garden is ultra water efficient and spatially compact, and by going vertical the garden produces a large amount of food on a very small footprint, effectively doubling food yield per square metre. The vertical garden is integrated into the espresso bar and café patrons are surrounded with edible gardens, aromatic herbs and flowers as they read the paper and have a coffee.

In the past 12 months, the garden has produced well over 100 kilograms of vegetables and herbs from 10 square metres of  garden area. However, because of the vertical design, the garden is only using 5 square metres of space. This means the garden is producing 10 kg of food per 1 sqaure metre of garden every year and at an average cost of between $5 – 10 per kg for vegetables at the Supermarket, the garden is producing $50 – 100 of food per metre square each year. It is great having a
garden that saves you money while feeding you and the family at the same time.

Australia imports over 40,000 tonnes of coffee beans per annum, resulting in a huge waste stream of used coffee grounds
that go to landfill. Red Star and Biofilta have worked out a way to divert this useful by-product into food to feed a hungry city and are now looking to replicate the model with cafes and restaurants who are interested in saving on food bills and growing fresh produce onsite. 100%of coffee grounds from the Red Star Urban Garden Espresso Bar are either used in the garden, or given away for free to customers to use in their gardens at home. Creating a zero-coffee-waste café!

CEO of Biofilta, Marc Noyce said “Thousands of tonnes of coffee grounds are produced each week in Australia’s cafés and restaurants, and most ends up in landfill. Red Star and Biofilta have shown how this wonderful material can be composted to soil and help feed hungry cities at the same time. Both companies are looking for more opportunities to repeat the formula with any café or restaurant who are interested in ethically sourced coffee, and have a spare space, wall, rooftop or balcony, to turn into a garden.

This article originally appeared in Sustainable Living Magazine, Issue 4, 2017.

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