Yes, the headline you read is correct; furniture made out of mushrooms. As that sinks in, did you know that mushrooms can be used to make leather?
Now back to the mushroom furniture; a fungus made furniture to be precise. Looking at the beautiful accent table and the white stool in our cover image, you would think it was crafted out of wood or marble. Well, it was not! It was made out of a mushroom, but the furniture is sturdy enough to support human weight. The furniture is made out of the mycelium ‘roots’ of mushrooms that up to now, were widely considered to be agriculture waste.
Mushrooms are made up of microscopic thread-like tissue known as mycelium. This mycelium is used to make the legs of the table and the base of the stool. How does that happen?
Well, mycelium naturally latches onto a surface to support the mushrooms to grow and form colonies. With the right manipulation and innovativeness, the growth of the mycelium can be coaxed to shape around a woodchip, scaffolding or hemp fiber. As it grows, it binds together the components.
This mushroom line of furniture is the creation of a partnership between Ecovative and bioMASON. The two companies use innovative approaches to creating sustainable alternative consumer products using biofabrication.
“What we do that is unique is that we use biological organisms to literally grow our product,” said Ebed Bayer, the CEO of Ecovative. “In most cases, like when you brew beer, the organism you use is thrown away at the end. But the organism is the most beautiful part. And it is part of our furniture.
Bayer says he stumbled upon the power of mycelium while during his class project over a decade ago as a college student. He was growing fungi in his bedroom for his class project. It was then that he realized mycelium could be used to make a soft, foam-like material, similar to the plastic foam used in packaging computers and electronics.
Unlike the plastic foams, the mycelium-made form-like material is biodegradable. Long story short; ever since he stumbled upon that idea, Bayer has been able to scale up his idea into a business that has attracted the attention of big companies like Dell. Already, Dell is using Bayer’s innovation in creating special mycelium foams.
Bayer further investigated and pondered upon possible application of mycelium. He, later on, discovered it could be manipulated into a variety of textures and shapes.
“By changing the environmental conditions we grow it in, we can get lots of different tissue properties and structural properties,” Bayer explains.
According to Bayer, if you change the temperature and carbon dioxide levels at which the mushroom is growing, the mycelium can make tougher materials. When you use stronger scaffolding, such as wood chips and stalks in place of the flexible hemp fibers. The mycelium adapt to the wood chips and stalk’s durability as it grows.
When the growing mycelium runs out of the nutritional building block, it dies off and in the process hardens. Then, using a little bit of head and pressure, the formed mycelium mass can be compressed to making something that looks like a particleboard; one that is strong enough to support human weight. That is when the mycelium or rather the mushrooms make furniture.
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