Iain Findlay is a director of Aurora Sustainability, a circular economy and sustainability consultancy firm based in Forres.

To illustrate the principles of the circular economy to people in the Highlands, Iain developed an innovative project based on two key challenges – getting local markets to sell more locally grown food, and the need to educate people about the advantages of the circular economy.

To us, innovation is looking at ways things are being done that are wasteful and finding new ways of doing them

The project, Green Grow Mushrooms, draws inspiration from an established idea - it inoculates spent coffee grounds with mushroom spores and uses the waste heat from a local distillery to create a micro-climate for growing. Following trials, Iain and his co-director are now growing and selling the mushrooms, and continuing to add environmental value by taking the spent mushroom compost and making it available for reforestation and other environmental projects.

The circular economy keeps things useful for as long as possible - by finding ways to process and re-use products, materials and nutrients to maximise their value. It reduces the amount of waste we emit into the natural environment, as well as the amount we take from it.

Innovate Your Business support

Aurora spoke to HIE, who highlighted the Innovate Your Business service and the support and funding available. Iain says: “HIE & IYB were very helpful because we had to focus down on what we were trying to do with our business model and our value proposition. The IYB grant has taken away a lot of risk and helped us implement the project at the scale we needed - and given us the enthusiasm and ability to move forward with it.”

The project has significantly raised the business’s profile both within Scotland and internationally, and helped to spread the word about the value of the circular economy.

Iain’s advice to businesses considering innovation is to get in touch with HIE and Innovate Your Business – and talk to them about your ideas. It could be the start of productive relationships between different businesses looking at waste, and seeing it as a newfound opportunity.

Innovate your business

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