Nikhil Arora, a UC Berkeley alumnus, started growing mushrooms out of coffee grounds during his senior year of college with classmate Alejandro Velez. Now the two entrepreneurs run a warehouse in Emeryville where weekly they use more than 10,000 pounds of coffee-ground waste from Peet’s Coffee & Tea to grow more than 500 pounds of mushrooms that are sold to Whole Foods. For more information, visit www.bttrventures.com
What inspired you to start growing mushrooms? We started during our last semester at UC Berkeley, where we met during a business ethics class. Americans drink coffee day in and day out. We convert that waste into a really nutritious soil and tie waste production into food production.
How did you launch the business? After six months of research, we had our first sale on Oct. 1, 2009, of 3.14 pounds of oyster mushrooms to the Berkeley Whole Foods.
How else are you expanding? We made a grow-it-at-home mushroom kit where people who purchase it can grow about a pound of mushrooms at home. You put it on the window sill and mist it about twice a day. You can grow a big crop of gourmet mushrooms in about 10 days. The Bay Area is such a big food culture, and this is as local as it gets.