Hackney based fruit and veg supplier look to pioneer new urban mushroom growth project

A Hackney based fruit and veg supplier has applied with New Spitalfields market for an urban mushroom growth project within disused shipping containers.

Angry Monk, who provide London’s caterers with rescued surplus produce, made the proposal in conjunction with zero-emissions courier partners Zhero and mushroom growers Fat Fox.

They describe themselves as Oddbox for the hospitality industry and have the goal of reducing the 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in the UK.

Mike Haskamp, 45, co-founder and general manager, said: “The idea is to create a true circular.

“Where all the waste from the community is used in New Spitalfields to grow mushrooms which are then distributed and sold back into the community.”

Wood shavings from furniture makers on Argall Industrial Estate and waste coffee grounds from Hackney’s cafes will grow the mushrooms.

Haskamp used the same process in earlier experiments at home.

The spent mushroom compost will pass on to community gardens and farms.

This latest project is Angry Monk’s next step in their mission to build a fairer food system.

Haksamp alongside Andrea Guarglia and Nathan Lucaussy set them up following an experience of Lucaussy’s whilst travelling China.

After fasting at a monastery, a monk chastised him for failing to finish his food at a celebratory all-you-can-eat buffet.

The monk forced him to complete his meal before he could leave, providing a different perspective towards food waste.

Based out of the UK’s largest fresh produce market at New Spitalfields they now save all manner of fruit and veg from landfill.

Haskamp said: “We’re in there every single night that it’s open keeping track of surplus produce.

“So the food that is at risk of going to waste sometimes is because it is that stereotypically, wonky fruit and veg.

“But more often than not because there’s just too much of it: seasonal oversupply, sudden glut, inefficiencies in the supply chain.

“And those inefficiencies are anywhere from the demand side, where you have supermarkets that have a lot of power in this country cancelling orders very last minute.

“To transportation not being as efficient as it should be, and therefore food having a much shorter shelf-life than expected.

“We’re out there identifying that produce and working with hospitality industry procure it for them.”

He said there are economic, environmental and humanitarian costs to food waste.

7% of the UK population and 10% of UK children live in food poverty.

He added: “We’re actually very good at producing food.

“We’re just terrible at distributing it in the right way.”

Their clients include Fallow, a visionary nose-to-tail restaurant in St. James.

A monthly impact report detailing surplus saved, carbon reductions and water conservation is provided to each client.

But the idea, Haskamp argues, is not a new one.

He said: “The bin is a very human concept, it’s a relatively new invention.

“It wasn’t too many generations ago that you use every little thing that came in.”

Their work poses questions to chefs regarding menu design.

Are products seasonal?

Is there a place elsewhere on the menu for any trim?

Haskamp said: “It’s an interesting dynamic with your diner because sometimes what a diner says they want and what they ask for are not consistent with each other.”

He praised Fallow’s use of a fake avocado and investment fund pantry manager who no longer orders bananas.

He added: “We need courage to do things like this and deal with the incongruity between what people say they believe in and their actions.”

Angry Monk aim is to deal with waste at source meaning the mushroom project is not their only recent innovation.

Out-grades, produce not to supermarket standards, is now sourced directly from a grower’s collective in Spain.

A similar partnership with UK pack houses come the start of the growing season in the spring is the aim.

In 2016, France made the headlines once they became first country to make supermarket food waste illegal.

Meanwhile, new UK Environment Secretary Steve Barclay will reconsider mandatory food waste reporting, with forerunners accepting a voluntary measure.

Angry Monk will find out if they have been successful with the mushroom proposal in mid-January.

Installation of the shipping containers will follow after that.

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