Industry Connections Report | 2019



Samantha Bibbs developed a new perspective on coffee, mushrooms, her field of study and the world — all thanks to a few months abroad. A food science and technology major, she interned with a sustainably-focused food company, Funghi Espresso, which grows mushrooms using coffee grounds. Bibbs’ internship came with a bonus: It was in Florence, Italy, through UW-Stout’s Office of International Education. In Florence she took two classes, one on the culture of business in Italy that coincided with her internship class. The experience included living in Florence with other students from around the U.S. while also visiting cities throughout Italy. At Funghi Espresso she experimented with growing mycelium, tubular filaments that develop into mushrooms. The company would prefer to grow mycelium rather than buy it to reduce expenses, she said. Funghi Espresso gets the used coffee grounds for free; employees on bikes collect them from restaurants, cafes and coffee

shops. The coffee grounds are inoculated with mycelium and left in the dark for 20 days before being exposed to light to finish the growing process. Funghi Espresso is part of the so-called blue economy, creating something from a waste product while minimizing environmental impact. Waste from the mushroom production process is composted and then used to grow organic vegetables. Bibbs conducted experiments on mycelium, using knowledge from her microbiology class at UW-Stout. She knew how to make her own petri dishes and create the proper environment for growth. Seeing a sustainable food system in operation reaffirmed what Bibbs was learning at UW-Stout. “This experience has given me a taste of international business. In order to be successful, you need to think outside the box to come up with a creative solution to a real- life problem,” she said.

Samantha Bibbs visits the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Pisa, Italy, during her summer studying and interning in the country.


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