Ecovative Design: Are Mushrooms the New Plastic?

by Mark Lovett on April 16, 2012

Wouldn’t it be amazing if packaging material could be grown instead of manufactured from fossil fuels?  Ecovative Design is doing just that, by creating packaging material that is both affordable and biodegradable. The idea behind this unique manufacturing process involves the use of fungi and agricultural waste.

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So where did this idea come from?  Two young entrepreneurs, Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, were fascinated by mushrooms growing on wood chips, and observing how the fungal mycelium strongly bonded the wood chips together.  This inspired them to think of new ways of using mycelium as a resin that could bond organic materials.

While taking a class at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, called Inventor’s Studio, the pair formulated a new process for binding together insulating particles, creating some remarkable materials that could possibly replace Styrofoam and plastic; two materials that never decompose, but instead break down over a fifty-year period, remaining in the environment forever as microscopic particles.

Upon graduating, Eben and Gavin were strongly encouraged by their faculty mentor, Burt Swersey to take a big risk, forgoing real jobs to found Ecovative.  Within weeks, mycologist Sue Van Hook at Skidmore College read about their mushroom insulation in the local newspaper, found them, and provided the expertise needed to grow fungi.  Eben and Gavin set up their first lab in the Rensselaer Business Incubator in 2007.

Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre of Ecovative Design

Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre of Ecovative Design

We look forward to seeing this material in commercial production!

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