The reason I started this business was because of a seed that was planted between 2014 and 2015. In this transition period, I came back to Holland from a 2 month period in Ireland (Republic of), mostly spent at the Irish Seed Savers Association, and just finished a year throwing myself at Permaculture and whatever that meant to me. To me, it was mostly about being able to grow my own food… and the mushroom journey was a continuation of that.
After surviving the mild winter in Holland (thank climate change for that), there was one thing I knew I wanted to do for sure that year: start Permablitzing urban spaces. That meant I wanted to grow food where there were usually just empty lots or open spaces. I wasn´t sure how to go about this, but after the new year, I had the energy to stop fussing over it and just go ahead and create a Meetup group called Permaculture Rotterdam (Permablitz Rotterdam at the time) and start by creating an introductory event where I would find people interested and where I found my first Permablitz host. I really wanted to start in my own home however, so I thought up different ideas for that.
The problem with living up 3 flights of steep stairs is that you don´t really want to be hauling dirt up there. So perhaps aquaponics would be a solution… although that would still require a hefty investment of materials and would probably come down to the same thing of hauling up heavy material. Another problem was not really having enough sunlight on the roof because our house was overshadowed by a 20 storey building next to us. I had to figure out a crop that would work well in low-light urban areas… and so the idea of mushrooms came upon me after hearing about an organization called Rotterzwam in the news.
Rotterzwam is a company that grows oyster mushrooms on coffee waste collected from local businesses. They also give workshops as one of their value proposals, and so I joined one of them to innoculate myself into the world of mushrooms.
Having already a pretty solid Permaculture basis, I used my theory to run some succesful experiments of my own by replacing straw with pasteurized newspaper. I figured if I could grow Oyster mushrooms on that, I could do it on a lot more things… I just needed the right elements.
After sharing the harvest with my neighbors, I got more into touch with them about Cape Verde, and we started sharing wild ideas of doing business. One of them was about starting a mushroom business there.
Through a deterministic mindset, me and my neighbors eventually found ourselves together on a field trip in Cape Verde, together with an agro-tourism organization called Bons Negócios! We spent about a week with their program, and spent the rest of our time creating our own itinerary, exploring different islands and seeing what Cape Verde was about.
Coming back to Holland from that, I was injected with new energy. It was also then that I realized for certain that I wanted to live in a tropical country after feeling the cold rains in Holland, and wishing it was the kind of rain I could dance in. I wanted to be surrounded by palm trees, not concrete and metal.
Trying to make this thing fly in Holland, I contacted someone who could`ve been able to help me, and asked if they knew a way to finance the project. What I got in return wasn´t money, but the next best thing (or perhaps in a way better), which was a job opportunity on the ground in Cape Verde. After making the necessary calls, going to the meetings (I would hardly have called it an interview), I quickly found myself packing and moving out.
Fast forward to almost a year later, and here I am sitting in the house I share with my girlfriend, who I met here in the second month of being here, writing this blog post. I´ve so far built a low-tech lab, and am waiting for a technical team put together by the ministry of agriculture to come check out the facility to approve my little experiment. Since noone`s ever done anything like this before in Cape Verde, I believe they`re quite curious about how I`m going to go about this more than anything. They cited `safety` as one of their main concerns, but I really believe the decision is going to be based on whether they like me or not, which I have a positive feeling towards seeing as I`m trying to do something which I sincerely believe is good for the country.
I have to make some other arrangements too, involving administration and logistics of the business, but its all slowly coming together. I find it quite magical how everything falls into place here. You got to have a lot of patience, that`s for sure, but you also have to know when to put the pressure on to make things happen, otherwise they just won`t. Change the things you can, and accept the things you can`t. And that´s where we are today. Hello Cabo Melo.
Written by Iemke ´inka´ Postma