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  Straits Times 16 Oct 07
Republic Poly's tasty fungal bounty

MUSHROOMS grown from food waste at Republic Polytechnic will soon be making their way onto the canteen menu.

A team of eight students and their supervisor, Dr Khaleda Ali Mita, have been producing bumper crops of oyster mushrooms over the last few weeks, in a container by the poly's multi-storey carpark.

Dr Mita, a civil engineer by training, said the key to her team's success was the controlled environment developed by the poly's engineering students. The temperature range is set at 25 to 28 deg C and a humidity control mechanism creates a fine mist in the air.

The best yield of 400g of mushrooms per kg of compost resulted from a mix of sawdust and coffee grounds.

Mr Dennis Tan who runs Kaffe Esplanade, a cafe in the polytechnic, said: 'I gave my premium coffee powder grounds to make the compost. I almost expected the mushrooms to have a coffee taste but of course they didn't.'

Instead, he said, the unsuspecting staff he tested the freshly sauteed fungus on, all say it is 'very fresh, tasty and juicy'. The mushrooms will be a permanent feature on his menu.

The eight students from the Biomedical Science Diploma Programme are excited about their success. One of them, Mr Zhao Zi Peng, 19, said they would be collecting fruit and vegetable pulp, as well as egg shells, for the compost.

Dr Mita hopes her students will be able to replicate the results with more delicate fungi in future, like the highly prized Lingzhe mushroom.

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