Why Mycelium

Mother Nature has already provided the technologies that allow humans to be more efficient and sustainable. We just need to know where to find them. This ancient, organic knowledge is kept in the form of abundant mushrooms in old-growth forests, and the mycelial webs that produce them. We call this The Forager’s Secret, because for centuries people who wander the woods for mushrooms have developed productive relationships with this resilient natural abundance, and it directly inspires our research into mycelial materials, engineering, and fabrication.

Mushrooms

The way most of us know fungi is by their mushrooms. For millennia, human beings and mushrooms have cultivated a productive relationship: we've eaten them for food, benefitted from their medicinal potential, among countless other uses. In turn, generations of foragers have cultivated their favorite varieties, spreading their spores as they wander the forests and, more recently, cultivating them indoors. At Ecovative, we don't focus on the mushrooms so much as the mycelia that produce them.

Mycelium

Mycelium is often described as the 'vegetative state' or ‘root structure’ of mushrooms. These terms come from plants, but fungi are a whole kingdom of life, distinct from animals, plants or bacteria. Mycelium does sort of look like roots, with webbed, branching strands of cells called hyphae. But mycelial networks are unique, extremely fine and strong, capable of resisting water, decay, and immense internal or external pressures. In other words, they're one of nature's most amazing supermaterials, which is a big part of why we find them so exciting.

Cytokinesis

Fungi have evolved over millions of years to build intricate, resilient structures that are amazingly elegant and complex. Through a process called cytokinesis, they constantly divide into complex webs that fill out all available space. The mycelial cell walls are reinforced by chitin, the same tough stuff that insect shells are made from. Combine their strong cell walls with their woven structure and their self-assembling nature, and you can see why we believe mycelium represents the supermaterial of the future.

Branching Hyphal Network

Fungi don't need to be told what to do. They naturally and intelligently branch and spread into the form that maximizes surface area and carrying capacity, with minimum wasted energy. Whether for replicating the structures of something like meat or leather, for materials scientists, working with mycelium is largely about guiding this process. We carefully choose the right strain and create the conditions for what we want to achieve, and then let the fungi do their thing.

Tissue Alignment

Of course, mycelium won't just make a shoe or an insulation panel on their own. Human intervention is important, and through our research at Ecovative, we've learned how to coax fungi into producing premium quality structures and materials. Our mycelium bacon, for example, comes from the AirMycelium™ process, producing parallel fibers of mycelium that mimic muscle tissues, with many of the same qualities such as texture and density, no animals involved. This technology allows us to grow these materials at volumes that could transform whole industries.

Growing at Scale

Our AirMycelium™ growth chambers guide mycelium into great big sheets, four meters wide and 60 meters long. These sheets can be grown in vertical layers, producing vast quantities within a small footprint. With a simple slice, the myco leathers, meats, and other materials are ready for final treatment. What's left behind aren't toxic chemicals, or plastic or other waste, but rather fully biodegradable substrate that actually feeds natural processes and builds soils, and meets our standard of true sustainability.

Mushroom Library

There are millions of different species of fungi, which means millions of possible materials with countless potential qualities. We select strains based on their specific properties, and in the process have generated a massive culture library that is constantly growing. This library isn't just a resource for biomaterials science; it's a record of precious fungal biodiversity. Since most fungi are still unknown, we don't even know what we're losing to climate change and other ecological threats, an outcome we aim to minimize by advancing sustainable myco-materials.

Product Highlight

Some strains are chosen because they hold their form over time, even after sustained pressure or bending. Others need to hold color, or exhibit a specific texture. Thanks to the incredible diversity of fungi, there is no shortage of possibilities.

GC11 / Large Incubator

After millions of years of evolution, the innate intelligence of fungi means we don't need to micromanage their growth. By selecting the right strain and creating the right conditions, we can encourage mycelium into the exact forms we need. It's a partnership forged in nature, and refined in our labs, to the benefit of the Earth.

Global Perspective

One company can't save the planet, which is why we're teaming up with anyone who sees the value in what we're growing. Ideas come from everywhere, so we've developed a partner program that allows anyone with an idea for how to use myco materials to put it to use in their own business and communities. It's our hope to form a global mycelial web of partner producers, to steadily replace the unsustainable materials with those that come from nature, and return to nature when their use is through.

Learn about our technology

MycoComposite™

Our technology using mycelium to bind together hemp hurd into a solid, lightweight material that composts in 45 days.

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AirMycelium™

AirMycelium™ is grown in an environmentally controlled Growth Chamber to produce 100% pure mycelium.

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The Mycelium Foundry

Our foundry services allow partners to test mycelium for their product needs at a small, pilot, and commercial scale.

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