There’s no doubt that mushrooms are a versatile food, and also have properties that can help with our health, such as helping our memories.
But thanks to biomanufacturing, they are being used in a variety of ways to offer alternative solutions to the earth’s limited resources.
Biomanufacturing is a growing field that has the potential to revolutionise the way we make products, including building materials. Mycelium, the root-like structure of fungi, has been gaining attention as a sustainable and versatile material for biomanufacturing.
Mycelium-based products have a number of advantages over traditional building materials. For one, they are renewable and biodegradable. Unlike materials such as concrete and plastic, which can take hundreds of years to decompose, mycelium-based materials can be broken down by natural processes in a matter of months. This makes them a much more sustainable option for the construction industry.
Another advantage of mycelium-based materials is that they can be produced using waste materials such as sawdust, agricultural waste, and even textile waste. This means that they can help to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, while also creating a valuable resource. Unlike most manufacturing processes - which may use a lot of energy and require machinery - fungi, a biological organism, basically does the hard work for you, simply by growing.
One of the most promising applications of this process is in the construction of building insulation. Mycelium has a natural ability to bind to and grow around other materials, making it an ideal material for insulation. The mycelium can be grown around waste materials such as sawdust or agricultural waste to create a lightweight, durable insulation material that is both energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.
Mycelium-based materials can also be used to create structural components for buildings. By growing mycelium around a frame or mould, it is possible to create lightweight but strong building components that can be used in a variety of applications. These components can be designed to be fire-resistant and can also be treated to resist pests and other forms of degradation.
One of the most interesting aspects of this biomanufacturing method is the potential for customisation. By manipulating the growth conditions of the mycelium, it is possible to create materials with specific properties such as strength, flexibility, and durability. This means that mycelium-based materials can be tailored to suit specific applications, which could open up a wide range of possibilities for the construction industry.
There are already a number of companies and organisations that are exploring the potential of mycelium-based biomanufacturing for building materials. Ecovative, a company based in New York, has developed a process for growing mycelium around agricultural waste to create a range of products including insulation, packaging materials, and even furniture. Another company, called MycoWorks, is using mycelium to create leather-like materials that can be used in fashion and accessories. Car companies are investigating if the technology can be used in car interiors.
In addition to building materials, mycelium-based biomanufacturing has potential applications in other industries such as food, medicine, and even space exploration. Mycelium can be used to create a range of edible products such as meat substitutes and protein-rich supplements. It also has antimicrobial properties that could make it useful in the development of new antibiotics and other medical treatments. Mycelium-based materials could even be used to create habitats and other structures on other planets, thanks to their ability to grow in a variety of conditions.
Mycelium can be grown "in a matter of days" in fermentation vessels that allow for indoor, urban farming.
This is advantageous because it is possible to scale up production in a much more cost-effective way, which means price parity with animal meat can be reached sooner.
Mycelium is the future of vegan food. Some of the issues with plant-based alternatives is that soy and pea protein products can have a very strong flavour which on its own many people find off-putting. Mycelium can be used as a base to create many flavour profiles that people crave.
Huge amounts of money are being invested in the research and development of the process on a worldwide basis so the uses for it are only going to expand in years to come. After all, seven years ago no-one had heard of it so who knows where it will go from here.