2_4_DiscoverBenelux_13_Januar_2014_MADS_Scan Magazine 1 17/12/2014 15:23 Page 58
Entrepreneurship mushrooms in the Benelux A local man jokes that Tropicana in Rotterdam has changed from a zwemparadijs (swimming paradise) into a zwamparadijs (mushroom paradise). The former tropical leisure pool closed its doors to the public in 2010 and in 2013 became the centre of operations for Rotterzwam, a company producing oyster mushrooms. TEXT & PHOTOS: STUART FORSTER
“We were inspired by the book The Blue Economy by Gunter Pauli, a Belgian guy who tells people you can make new business models out of local stuff, waste especially, and this can make a difference and more jobs,” says Mark Slegers, who, along with Siemen Cox, is one of the two co-founders and directors of Rotterzwam. The idea they are following is one of the sustainable, environmentally friendly business models espoused by Pauli, who was born in Antwerp in 1956. Now living in Tokyo, Pauli founded the zero Emissions Re-
58 | Issue 13 | January 2015
search & Initiatives think tank, zERI, which, guided by the Kyoto Protocol, aims to reduce carbon emissions.
From coffee to oyster mushrooms “If you drink coffee, 99.8 per cent of the bean is thrown away. Only 0.2 per cent is in the cup. In the Netherlands we are one of the biggest coffee drinkers in the world. About 120 million kilograms of coffee is imported every year,” says Slegers, giving background information about Rotterzwam’s source of energy for growing mushrooms.
“We collect coffee waste from cafes in central Rotterdam. We bring it here on a cargo bike and make a substrate out of it, mix it, and put oyster mushroom seeds in. Then it will become a mushroom in five to six weeks and we sell the mushrooms back to restaurants in the city,” explains the entrepreneur in the tiled basement of Tropicana.
A base for local entrepreneurs The site of Rotterzwam’s operations is a well-known riverside landmark. Tropicana was opened by Center Parcs in 1988, hosting a heated wave pool, waterslides, a
Promoting Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.