Mushrooms – or, at least, the mycelium that makes up the network of fibers that supports and nourishes them – may be the new all-purpose material.
MycoWorks, a young San Francisco company, has created a process to turn mushroom fibers into tables, rafts, bricks and construction tiles. The mycelium is cast into molds where fibers grow and entangle, then the final product is baked to kill organisms so the tile or table won’t sprout. When you’re done with the item, you can compost it or even feed it to cattle.
Speaking of cattle, MycoWorks also has created a mushroom-based version of leather. It’s not only vegan, but also can be created in a few weeks instead of the years, hundreds of gallons of water and tons of feed needed to raise a cow to the age where it can be killed and skinned.
On a larger scale, Ikea is mulling mushroom-based packing material to replace polystyrene. The spongy material uses mycelium fibers grown around clean agricultural waste, such as cornhusks. The technology was developed by Ecovative, a New York company betting the future can be built out of ‘shrooms.
Among other things, Ecovative has created structural building panels that insulate. To prove the point, the company grew a tiny house – letting the structural panels grow in place, then cladding the little building in wood. For the creative, Ecovative also sells grow-your-own kits, from which one woman made her wedding dress.