In 2016, MycoWorks developed a way to turn fungi into a leather-like material that is sturdier than the treated animal skin. They quickly come up with products that used their substitute biomaterial.
Rearing an animal for the purpose of turning its hide into leather requires around two years. Until the day you slaughter it, you will have to feed and house the animal. In comparison, MycoWorks only needs a few weeks to produce the mushroom-based material. The process does not involve any animals or cruelty. (Related: Harvesting mushrooms for food and fire: Tips for identifying them.)
Furthermore, the fungi can be cultivated using waste materials like corn cobs, hemp hurds, paper waste, and saw dust. A combination of the right temperature, light, and certain waste/foods will encourage certain qualities in the fungi. MycoWorks can turn these carefully-grown mushrooms into breathable materials. Some are as pliant as leather, while others are tougher than wood or bricks.
“They can take our greatest resource, which is human waste, and turn that into something that’s really valuable to us," says Philip Ross, who serves as MycoWorks' chief technology officer. "They have the ability to give us everything that we want."
Ross is hoping that mushroom-based materials and products will one day become a global standard. He envisions an industry that can provide resources for human needs without overtaxing the environment.
Their biomaterial is resilient for something made from soft mushrooms. If the fungi are fed and raised right, the resulting material proves to be stronger and tougher than bricks. It also possesses superb flame retardant qualities. The fungi material will stay intact even when exposed to intense fires. It will also extinguish itself once the fire is out.
Needless to say, an easily produced material with excellent qualities that can be tailored to suit the needs of a user will appeal to many consumers. The mushroom-based material can see use in construction, where it would replace both bricks and wood to make sturdy and fireproof structures. Philip and his colleagues at MycoWorks believe it is only a matter of time and refinement before the material can be adapted for use in hi-tech products such as smartphones and solar cells.
“Everything that we call agricultural waste is actually an incredible resource that mushrooms can grow on," Ross mentioned regarding the future of mushroom-based products. "We’re past peak oil, so if we are going to replace our current materials with something, it’s still going to have to hold up in some type of sustainable way."
Ross believes his company's product would have great synergy with hemp, another popular material. The two natural materials could be used to manufacture clothing, construction materials, fuel, leather, and plastics. This can be done without damaging the environment or depleting irreplaceable and dirty resources like oil.
To inform and encourage people to try out mushroom-based products, MycoWorks provides a DIY video guide that teaches viewers how to cultivate their own patch of fungi for harvesting. This way, even ordinary people could create their own brightly colored products.
The company itself is going strong after two years of operations. Ross and his colleagues continue to make mushroom-based products for consumers who want cheap and sustainable materials from local sources.
Find out more about game-changing products like mushroom-based materials at Products.news.