Will Tanaka

GFI Fellow - Class of 2019

Undergraduate student, nanoengineering
UC San Diego


Last year, Will and the Roger’s Urban Farmlab composting and anaerobic digestion program took over 50,000 pounds of food waste from campus dining halls, restaurants, and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. As a result, Will has seen and collected massive amounts of data on the amount and type of food waste at the University and how best to turn this waste stream back into valuable and nutritious food. This data has shown that almost 50% of all waste brought to Roger’s is coffee grounds and tea leaves, something that in too high of ratio is incompatible with both anaerobic digestion and composting. Using his support from winning the MIT Lemelson Prize, Will is developing a way of consistently converting pure coffee grounds back into edible, gourmet mushrooms. With the Global Food Initiative, his work will be expanded and will also involve the GFI ambassador Lindsey Johnson to distill this process into a standard operating procedure to be recreated and used by other potential UC schools and communities. The mushrooms will be donated to the Triton Food Pantry for food insecure students and utilized in cooking demos, in partnership with The Hub on campus connected to the Basic Needs Program.

View poster (PDF)