Circular Biomaterials at Industrial Scales

S. Lomnes
Ecovative Design,
United States

Keywords: mycelium, foundry, biobased, next generation materials, foams, hides, circularity, plastics


Ecovative works directly with biology to grow high quality materials that are completely plastic-free, and useful in a wide range of industries. Mycelium is the 'root structure' of mushrooms, and Ecovative's technology guides its growth to create leather-like hides, high performance foams, even food and packaging material. The mycelium is fed by agricultural leftovers, such as straw, wood chips and seed hulls, leaving behind mostly compost as a byproduct. Our technologies are aimed at displacing the negative consequences of high polluting processes and industries, particularly plastic pollution and resource-intensive animal agriculture. We do this by creating materials that emerge from natural cycles, and, when their use is through, return to the soil to sustain those same cycles. This talk will give a broad but substantive overview of our technology, its applications, and our theory of change — that is, how we plan to scale up our technologies, and in doing so, shift industries toward greater circularity. I'll introduce mycelium materials, covering the progress we've made in the last 15 years, and the basic aspects of our different technologies — MycoComposite for construction and shipping, AirMycelium for foams, hides, and alternative whole cut proteins. This will lead to a general explanation of our business model, which includes our own companies, such as Mushroom Packaging and our Forager division focused on non-woven textiles for fashion and apparel, as well as our licensees and spin-off companies. We'll explain the reasoning behind purchasing a state-of-the-art spawn and substrate facility in the Netherlands, and a successful pilot program to install AirMycelium in an existing mushroom farm, all pointing to a more vertically integrated supply chain, and Ecovative's eventual role as more of a platform or supplier of technology than a direct producer of products. From here, we will discuss Ecovative's partnerships and collaborations with leading brands, which allow us to develop custom materials for specific products, fit to the supply chains that will produce them. These partnerships are how we are finding product-market fit for our next generation materials in a range of new products that we hope to begin unveiling later this year. This is only possible because of the Mycelium Foundry, our first-of-its-kind, high throughput mycelium research lab that quickly iterates new, custom tuned materials for use in fashion and apparel. The Foundry is key to how we will quickly develop and scale new materials to make a positive difference in the world.