3 Apr 2020
- A biotech firm in New York is developing a plant-based packing material that might change Styrofoam.
- The material is made from mycelium, which is basically the root structure of mushrooms.
- On top of packing product, mycelium is likewise being used to make protein-rich meat replacements and vegan leather.
Following is a transcript of an episode of Service Expert Today. Enjoy the full episode here
That pillowy white thing you’re looking at isn’t a giant marshmallow. It’s more like a huge fungi.
It’s the design of a biotech company that utilizes mushrooms to make environment-friendly packaging products, leather, and even bacon.
Mycelium, as it’s called, is essentially the root structure of mushrooms.
Mycelium is unique since it’s easy to both grow and form into various types.
At Ecovative Style in Green Island, New York, engineers, biologists, and designers are harvesting its potential to lower plastic intake and feed the planet.
Their very first product, a product packaging product made from mycelium and farming waste, is a lot like Styrofoam, and can be utilized to package anything from a computer to a candle.
The difference is that Mushroom Packaging only takes 30 days to garden compost. Styrofoam fills up an estimated 30%of our landfills and takes a minimum of 500 years to biodegrade.
Their 2nd item, MycoFlex, is a foamy structure of pure mycelium. It can change polyurethane products like makeup sponges or be pounded down to develop a leatherlike textile.
The third product, Atlast, is a meatless alternative to chicken, steak, bacon, scallops, clams– you name it.
Growing all 3 of these products is surprisingly environment-friendly For example, it takes control of 575 gallons of water to produce one pound of pork, but only 1.25 gallons of water to grow 1 pound of mycelium bacon.
Eben Bayer, Cofounder and CEO of Ecovative: “In addition to utilizing less water, the procedure occurs much quicker. It takes a couple of years to raise a cow or a pig. I used to raise pigs in Vermont. We grow our mycelium meat in just 10 days.”
Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre founded Ecovative Style in2007 Their concept to establish mycelium into an option to Styrofoam was influenced by Eben’s childhood on a farm in Vermont, where among his chores was to shovel wood chips into a heating system to boil maple syrup.
Bayer: “In the spring, fungis would grow, and they ‘d turn the wood chips into these huge clumps, which were a huge pain in my butt because they blocked the tractor container. And so I ‘d understood that mycelium could be really solid and strong.”
The process for developing Mushroom Packaging isn’t too far off from those fungis in the woodpile. Agricultural waste products like wood chips, corn husks, or hemp are combined with mycelium in a mold, watered, and incubated for 9 days.
The procedure for growing mushroom leather or alternative meat items is a bit various due to the fact that here, the mycelium grows up and out of the farming waste.
The mixture is positioned in what Ecovative calls vertical farms– development chambers that simulate the conditions of the soil, fooling the mycelium.
Andy Bass, director of marketing at Ecovative: “What it’s actually trying to do is grow up and punch out through the earth to form a mushroom, but we keep the environment such that it just grows and becomes this big marshmallow-like structure. This is pure mushroom tissue at this point.”
The folks at Ecovative call it “aerial mycelium.” After collecting, this tissue will be required to the kitchen area, cut into slices, compressed, and seasoned.
Bass: “It fries up and gets crispy, much like bacon, and tastes pretty incredible too.”
Consumers are starving for items like mushroom bacon. Last year, United States retail sales of plant-based meat were up nearly 10%, while traditional meat sales grew by just 2%.
And it can be grown at the competitive rate of $1 per pound.
Ecovative says that mycelium’s greatest possible lies in its texture.
Bayer: “I firmly believe that the best innovation on planet Earth is nature, and that if we harness natural technology, we can live better lives with better food and better materials at no expense to the planet.