Various mushroom ingredients have been found to containing some remarkable ingredients that are beneficial across industries. We typically picture a mushroom as only the part that is visible above ground, the fruiting body.
But a large part of it stays underground. This root system is the mycelium and is composed of a dense mass of fine, thread-like filaments of tissue called hyphae. Mycelium is now being modified to create a host of products including tough building materials, packaging materials, coffins, and shoes. And the best thing about mushrooms is that it feeds on agricultural byproducts and other trash, even helping to detoxify them in the process.
This biodegradable material also grows vertically and consumes less space, and requires little water. It is now recognized as a resource that brings direct environmental benefits by reducing emissions and the need for harmful virgin materials and carbon-based produces.
There are around 5M types of mushrooms, making it a world of its own, according to Dutch researcher and designer, Mourizio Montalti. He says that mushrooms play a fundamental role in transforming nutrition and also information among living systems. They are indispensable for human life.
Montalti founded a company, Mogu, in 2018 based on his experiment with furniture designs based on mycelium. The company commercializes bio-material items that are based on fungi. They include tiles that absorb sound. These are grown from mycelium that is grown on refuse from rice straw, corn crop, discarded seaweeds, clamshells, and coffee grounds.
But mushrooms need to be studied further, with the real challenge lying in creating products with mycelium that are practical and can be competitive when compared to products made from conventional materials.
Mushrooms are the rage even with sportswear giants and fashion labels such as Gucci and Stella McCartney. But mycelium is not yet a mass-driven production. A few other products could herald a mushroom revolution in those sectors.
Mushroom Mycelium Coffins
Loop, the Netherlands-based coffin manufacturer, is offering coffins made of mycelium that are decomposable. This gives the dead an opportunity to create new life through their ‘living cocoons,’ their range of coffins that become decomposed.
Bodies that decompose inside a mycelium cocoon, help to revive biodiversity that is depleting at such a rate that over 1 million species on land, air, and sea are close to extinction.
In the normal process, we destroy a tree and shut ourselves away from microorganisms. It is just as bad when we cremate a body and destroy a body that is nutrient-rich, thereby also polluting the air. Instead of considering a body as waste, it can be considered a rich source of nutrients that can replenish the soil.
Shoes Made Of Mushroom Leather
A Bandung-based Indonesian company, Mycotech shifted from gourmet mushroom to a substitute for leather made from mushroom, especially for shoes.
Adi Reza Nugroho, the founder, says that this mushroom leather has multiple advantages over animal leather. It consumes less water, doesn’t take an innocent life, and takes very little space through vertical farming. It is also almost emission-free and doesn’t need the harsh chemicals that are used for treating animal leather.
The mycelium used to produce this mushroom leather is grown on sawdust and other agricultural waste. It grows within a number of days to a stage when it is harvested, tanned, processed further to produce a material that is breathable, robust, flexible, and durable, lasting for years. Mycotech has its order book full till 2027.
Adidas is also producing a line of mycelium shoes under the ‘Mylo’ brand.
Mushrooms To Transform Toxic Waste Such As Plastic
Mushroom survives on the trash and this unique ability has a huge potential to transform products like plastic that cannot be extracted or composted by normal methods.
Mycocycle, a US-based company makes use of fungi to extract toxic elements from building rubble and petrochemical waste. They transform toxic materials into non-toxic ones that can then be recycled safely. The decontamination of toxic building materials to create zero waste is especially useful in nations like the US which used up 85% of its landfill area.
The mycelium fed by trash is resistant to water and fire, claims Mycocycle. It can then be used in the manufacture of products like Styrofoam, and packaging, building, and insulating materials.
This trash to treasure route helps decarbonize waste and adds value to a circular economy.
Biodegradable Block From Mushroom As A Building Material
Hy-Fy is a compostable, mushroom tower that has 0-emission. It was constructed in 2014 in New York using 10,000 bricks made from mycelium. There have been more buildings built since then, but a building made of compost is mostly conceptual.
A micro-home being exhibited by My-CO Space in Metzlerpark has been designed for a couple of occupants. It is a 20 sq. mt. structure that has a frame made of plywood made into mycelium blocks in the shape of honeycombs. It has been grown with an underlying layer of mushroom straw. The organic shape of the structure highlights the interrelation between mushrooms and humans.
Vera Meyer, founder of My-CO-X, and a professor of biotechnology at Berlin Technical University says that the aim is to transform decaying plant matter obtained from agriculture and forestry to composite materials with the help of fungi.
Meyer believes that mushrooms are the most vital among microorganisms and can help in transiting from fossil fuels to bio-based assets.