The humble mushroom could become a big player in the global fight against climate breakdown if one Highland company has their way.

Iain Findlay and Dr Isabella Guerrini de Claire started consultancy Aurora Sustainability to help other businesses transition to more sustainable modes of production and development.

To drive home the circular economy model of eliminating waste and reusing and remaking items and materials, they soon realised that showing rather then telling lead to greater understanding - growing mushrooms on coffee grounds to demonstrate the principles.

In October the company is hosting Europe's first mushroom learning lab that will see Fungi experts and entrepreneurs share their knowledge with businesses that wish to harness the many uses of the organisms.

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In partnership with Aberdeen University's The Rowatt Institute of Nutrition and Health, the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre, Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes and Belgian biofabrication business, Glimps, the four day event will comprise of workshops on sustainable innovation, fungi cultivation and biomaterials prototyping.

Iain Findlay said: "The more we got into it the more we discovered these other uses. Yes, we can use them for food, yes they're super healthy, yes, we can grow them on byproducts. We're trying to build a zero waste company and products that embodies the circular economy. If we can do it, then other people can too."

Aurora's oyster mushrooms are grown in repurposed bakery buckets in refurbished shipping containers on food waste material including coffee grounds, whisky and brewery grains and feedstock.

The fungi are sold locally to be used in cooking with waste recycled as compost to rebuild depleted soil and to eventually build biomaterials that could soon replace plastic packaging.

Aurora are also researching the use of mushroom compunds in medicines and see themselves as very much contributing to "future solutions for climate emergency".

Mr Findlay said: "The potential for [using] them in medicine is very widely recognised. Because of improved science we know that bio-compounds like chitin, which makes the shells in lobsters hard, is in the cell walls of the fungi and it's massively important."

As an industrial biopolymer that is sourced exclusively from shellfish waste, companies are trying to develop better ways to extract chitin safely and with less environmental impact. With overfishing threatening Scotland's crustaceans, mushrooms could be the answer..

Mr Findlay said: "At the moment it's a horribly destructive process using hydrochloric acid. There are people working on biological extraction which means you get a much better product that can be used in medicine."

Now the Forres-based business is about to launch offshoot company, the Green Grow Cooperative which aims to arm urban and rural communities, individuals and businesses with the ability to become food self-sufficient through a range of vegan ready-meals that use dried mushrooms as their base ingredients.

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Using native mushrooms means that after their life cycle has come to an end, the still-living substrate that nourished them, can be used to as a natural soil fertiliser.

Mr Findlay said: "It's still a living organism that you can put into the soil so if we use native mushrooms we're not introducing anything new."

Mr Findlay and team are working with a company based near Glasgow who are reforesting by providing mycelium-rich compost that will help the trees to prosper.

He said: "When trees grow in the presence of the mushroom roots they grow much faster, it's a much more diverse and healthy eco-system . Mycelium basically underpin pretty much all life on Earth really. If you want healthy forests you need mycelium."

Eschewing the typical mode of growing in single use plastic bags, Aurora geow the mushrooms in food-grade buckets that have only been used once before, before going on to reuse them at least 100 times more.

He wants their Green Grow Cooperative business to be a model that can be replicated, seeing it as a sort of franchise whereby people can grow their own food business on waste products gathered locally.

He said: "We just want to develop the system to enable them to do that. There are waste products all over the place and they need to be used there. We can't be transporting waste all over the country. We've got to start being much smarter about how we produce our food. So that means producing the food where the resources and the people are."

The coop would train people to grow the mushrooms to be sold locally or back to Green Grow , who would dry them and put them back into the lentil curry, polenta and began haggis meal boxes, building a network of growers all using mushrooms to fuel sustainable businesses.

Working with the renowned Rowatt Institute to ensure their meals are nutritionally balanced and acccess to the mushroom proteins is maximised.

Mr Findlay said: "Humanity faces a protein gap in the future because animal-based proteins is too expensive and we need to find alternative sources.

"Mushrooms have lots of protein in them but humans can't access unless combined with the right types of fibres"

Ingredients are carefully handpicked to minimise carbon emissions, with local produce prioritised so that Green Grow Coop can move reduce its environmental impact and become almost fully circular.

The layer of material left at the end of the growing process has properties similar to polystyrene, according to Mr Findlay and some is currently being tested at Heriot-Watt University.

Mushrooms, with their immediate and potential benefits are an exciting prospect, then, for the future?

"Yes," said Mr Findlay. "They're utterly extraordinary."