6 Jobs created

From Grounds to Growth: Ecormarc is revolutionizing agriculture by recycling coffee grounds into mushroom plants

Ecomarc by Ahmed Hamdi

Antoine Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry, once uttered the following words: "Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed." Ahmed Hamdi, a doctor of chemistry, and the founder of the Ecomarc project, swears by this principle. His company is dedicated to recycling coffee grounds as a substrate for the sustainable production of organic mushrooms for daily consumption. Since 2018, the Ecomarc project has been operating in the Béja region, actively driving the transition towards a circular economy in Tunisia.

A clear business model laid the foundation for Ahmed's entrepreneurial activities, aligning fully with the principles of eco-conscious agricultural production. His motto is as follows: "I aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater pollution. The path to more sustainable agriculture and fewer chemical fertilizers is the only right way."

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An Ecomarc employee dissects the mushroom for quality control. Copyright: WIDU.africa

The collaboration of WIDU & Diaspora in supporting the founder

Initial successes took a while to materialize. In 2022, Ecomarc faced significant challenges due to an extended summer in Tunisia. Prolonged heatwaves and frequent water shortages resulted in substantial production losses. The ensuing lack of revenue compelled Ahmed, the founder of Ecomarc, to urgently find a solution that would not jeopardize the quality of his products and would keep the production flow under ideal cooling conditions. Expanding mushroom cultivation necessitated the construction of a cooling system.

To overcome the situation, the young entrepreneur reconnected with a former colleague named Mohamed Trabelsi. Ahmed and Mohamed had formed a strong friendship during their studies. Together, they decided to participate in the WIDU.africa program and applied for the Original WIDU Grant, the classical funding program. Mohamed, residing in France at the time, became Ahmed's sponsor, registering online on the platform and supporting his friend's business idea with a private investment from France. Ultimately, the financial assistance amounted to around 16,400 DT, with approximately 9,000 DT corresponding to the WIDU grant. With this funding, the entrepreneur expanded his production facility with a cooling and insulation system.

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The mushrooms sprout from their buckets in the greenhouse. A good sign for the harvest. Copyright: WIDU.africa

Guaranteed regional scaling thanks to the second grant and WIDU coaching

A second participation in the program facilitated additional crucial investments for his business. These were particularly important to make his distribution chain more resilient and to solidify his aspirations with a regional expansion in the cities of Sousse and Sfax. The acquisition of a refrigerated logistics van resulted in significant economies of scale. Ahmed describes it as follows: "The investment allows us to collect coffee grounds from municipalities and preserve the quality of my mushrooms for deliveries to more remote regions."

The WIDU funding program complements its financial support with technical guidance through its partner Redstart Tunisie, with coaching assisting Ahmed in optimizing customer management and communication.

Today, Ahmed's product range includes oyster mushrooms and mushroom cultivation kits based on mycelium, designed for home cultivation. With a team of 6 people, Ahmed plans to make his mushroom production more independent of external risks. His major goal is to tap into international markets.

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The mushrooms are weighed and packed on the work surface. The picture shows Ecomarc founder Ahmed Hamdi testing the new packaging. Copyright: WIDU.africa