- A biotech firm in New York is designing a plant-based packing material that could replace Styrofoam.
- The material is made from mycelium, which is basically the root structure of mushrooms.
- On top of packing material, mycelium is also being used to make protein-rich meat substitutes and vegan leather.
- The developments could signal a breakthrough in the plant-based food industry.
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2020欧洲杯小组赛That pillowy white thing you're looking at isn't a giant marshmallow. It's more like a giant fungus.
2020欧洲杯小组赛It's the design of a biotech company that uses mushrooms to make eco-friendly packing materials, leather, and even bacon.
2020欧洲杯小组赛Mycelium, as it's called, is basically the root structure of mushrooms.
2020欧洲杯小组赛Mycelium is unique because it's easy to both grow and shape into different forms.
At in Green Island, New York, engineers, biologists, and designers are harvesting its potential to reduce plastic consumption and feed the planet.
Their first product, a packaging material made from mycelium and agricultural waste, is a lot like Styrofoam, and can be used to package anything from a computer to a candle.
2020欧洲杯小组赛The difference is that Mushroom Packaging only takes 30 days to compost. Styrofoam and takes at least 500 years to biodegrade.
2020欧洲杯小组赛Their second product, MycoFlex, is a foamy structure of pure mycelium. It can replace polyurethane products like makeup sponges or be pounded down to create a leatherlike textile.
2020欧洲杯小组赛The third product, Atlast, is a meatless alternative to chicken, steak, bacon, scallops, clams — you name it.
Growing all three of these products is . For example, it takes over 575 gallons of water to produce one pound of pork, but only 1.25 gallons of water to grow 1 pound of mycelium bacon.
Eben Bayer, Cofounder and CEO of Ecovative: "In addition to using less water, the process occurs much faster. So it takes a couple of years to raise a cow or a pig. I used to raise pigs in Vermont. We grow our mycelium meat in just 10 days."
Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre founded Ecovative Design in 2007. Their idea to develop mycelium into an alternative to Styrofoam was inspired by Eben's childhood on a farm in Vermont, where one of his chores was to shovel wood chips into a furnace to boil maple syrup.
Bayer: "In the spring, fungi would grow, and they'd turn the wood chips into these big clumps, which were a big pain in my butt because they blocked the tractor bucket. And so I'd known that mycelium could be really tenacious and strong."
The process for creating Mushroom Packaging isn't too far off from those fungi in the woodpile. Agricultural waste products like wood chips, corn husks, or hemp are mixed with mycelium in a mold, watered, and incubated for nine days.
2020欧洲杯小组赛The process for growing mushroom leather or alternative meat products is a bit different because here, the mycelium grows up and out of the agricultural waste.
The mixture is placed in what Ecovative calls vertical farms — growth chambers that mimic the conditions of the soil, tricking the mycelium.
Andy Bass, director of marketing at Ecovative: "What it's really trying to do is grow up and punch out through the earth to form a mushroom, but we keep the environment such that it just grows and grows into this large marshmallow-like structure. This is pure mushroom tissue at this point."
The folks at Ecovative call it "aerial mycelium." After harvesting, this tissue will be taken to the kitchen, cut into slices, compressed, and seasoned.
Bass:2020欧洲杯小组赛 "It fries up and gets crispy, just like bacon, and tastes pretty amazing too."
2020欧洲杯小组赛Consumers are hungry for products like mushroom bacon. Last year, US retail , while conventional meat sales grew by only 2%.
Ecovative calls mycelium a "super ingredient." It's high in fiber and has the same protein content as a slice of bacon.
And it can be grown at the competitive price of $1 per pound.
2020欧洲杯小组赛Ecovative says that mycelium's greatest potential lies in its texture. It can mimic whole cuts of meat, as opposed to most other plant-based meats that come in the form of minced patties or sausages.
Companies have taken note. Ecovative has partnered with food developer Mattson to bring whole-cut plant-based meat to consumers.
Bayer: "I firmly believe that the best technology on planet Earth is nature, and that if we harness natural technology, we can live better lives with better food and better materials at no cost to the planet. And I think we're now starting to do that, but we're just scratching the surface."