The mushroom wave is upon us, and its way beyond mushroom coffee.
Fungi of all shapes and sizes have been making their way into our favorite health and wellness products. Whether it’s Gummies, Lattes, Jerky, Tinctures, or Elixirs, there are now endless options for us to add functional mushrooms into our diet and routines. The Multiverse has curated the best of these products with crowd favorites like Reishi, Chaga, Turkey Tail, and Lion’s Mane and made them accessible on a shoppable marketplace, but this is just the tip of the iceberg in the magical kingdom of fungi.
If you dive a bit deeper into the world of mushrooms, soon enough you’ll hear the term “Mycelium” come up.
While you wouldn’t pick up mycelium at a supermarket, and its not as effective as the fruiting body extracts of mushrooms you should be looking for in your supplements, mycelium has found its way to the headlines for different, but equally powerful reasons.
What is mycelium?
A fungus is typically made of two main structures: its “Fruiting Body” and its “Mycelium.”
The “Fruiting Body” of a mushroom is what we usually see in the grocery store. It’s what we identify as a “Mushroom.” However, during its growth, each mushroom develops a network of roots that are collectively termed “Mycelium.”
Mycelium is fast-growing, fibrous, and biodegradable, making it the perfect sustainable material for the 21st century.
Researchers have developed ways to control the physical properties of mycelium such as rigidity and ductility by tailoring its growth medium (substrates) and using heat treatment to stop growth at specific times. Mycelium-made materials such as leather have also been shown to have a significantly lower impact on the environment than traditional materials.
You can read more about the specific properties of mycelium that make it an ideal sustainable material in this article by the Scientific American. CBC has also done an exploration on the sustainability of mycelium and listed a few current and future use cases here.
New brands are now exploring the usage of mycelium to develop sustainable packaging, fashion accessories, and even lamps.
Here are the most innovative companies in the mycelium industry that we’re tracking.
*Note that many of these companies are in research and development phase and not available for consumer purchase yet.
1. Mylo (Insta)
Mylo is a materials company that uses mycelium to create synthetic leather. It has partnered with major brands such as Adidas, Lululemon, and Stella McCartney, to bring mycelium to your everyday fashion apparels and accessories by the end of 2021.
MycoWorks uses mycelium to build Fine Mycelium, a synthetic leather. MycoWorks has an ongoing partnership with Hermès in an exclusive collaboration to design a Victoria Bag made of Fine Mycelium.
Mushroom Packaging is a sub-brand of material design firm Ecovative Design. Mushroom Packaging is a sustainable packaging material similar to cardboard that’s made out of mycelium. Soon, the products that arrive at your doorstep may be protected by mushrooms!
Mogu is a materials design firm that uses mycelium to create acoustic panels and flooring. Will the next room you walk in have its floor made of mycelium?
MushLume is the brainchild of Danielle Troffe, a biodesigner who received her design education at the Florence Design Academy. MushLume is an award-winning product collection of lamps and other lighting products that made from mycelium. These lamps are currently available for purchase on Danielle’s website, so check them out!
MycoTech Lab is a materials design studio based out of the Phillipines. They use mycelium to make MyLea, their own version of synthetic leather. In 2020, they released a watch with a band using MyLea on Kickstarter. Although the watches are no longer for sale, you can check out the campaign here.
Nir Meidi is an independent designer who has leveraged the power of mycelium to make lighting products with striking designs. You can check out more of her designs on her website.
Some of the students at Critical Concrete have been exploring the use of mycelium for insulation. On top of being low cost and lightweight, mycelium has low thermal conductivity, making it great for insulation. Follow along on their website to see their process and methodology for creating the final product.
Mycelium Materials is a design company based in Europe that produces two types of organic materials: MyFoam (pure mycelium foam) and Mycelium Substrates. They have their own farm based in the Netherlands where they grow the mycelium that goes into making MyFoam, a foam-like material which can be used to make sustainable leather and other textiles.
Modern Meadow is an organic materials company founded by Andras Forgacs, who previously worked at Organovo, a San Diego-based biofabrication company focused on creating human tissue models. Andras took his experiences with biofabrication at Organovo to Modern Meadow, which is now exploring different ways to create sustainable materials using mycelium.
The future of Mycelium
Based on current trends, Fashion and Apparel is by far the dominant industry in commercializing mycelium and will likely continue to be over the next 1–3 years.
However, various research initiatives and startups have already uncovered other unique use cases for mycelium, including lamp shades, insulation, and flooring. As the industry continues to develop and the processes for manufacturing mycelium continues to improve, we can expect to see mycelium-based products produced at a much larger scale.
We envision a future where mycelium is widely adopted as a building and design material that take advantage of its exceptional material properties. Temporary shelters, bandages, and even yoga mats may be made of mycelium in the near future.
But the field of research is still brand new, and there’s still so much untapped potential for mycelium and fungi in general. If you want to stay updated, subscribe to The Multiverse newsletter where we share the latest developments in the fungi world.
Mushroom curious? Step Into The Multiverse, follow along @multiverse.marketplace
This article was written in collaboration with Tim Huang, Product and Operations Manager of The Multiverse.
Alli is an enthusiast of all things community-building, health, and mushrooms 🍄. Passionate about bringing psychedelics to the mainstream wellness conversation 🌈.