Agricultural waste and mushroom roots to replace particle board
Ecovative describes itself as ‘a world leading biomaterials company creating and scaling environmentallyfriendly products that are cost and performance competitive with conventional materials’.
The company is based in Green Island, New York and is developing, producing and marketing earth friendly materials, such as Myco Board. This substance is developed to be used as a natural replacement for particleboard, plywood and fibreboard. Rather than using harmful resins, Myco Board binds particles together using a natural resin. The material is used to make moulded shapes, large panels and flexible thin ply materials. Myco Board can be used for structural and non-structural furniture applications, such as work surfaces, seat backs and moulded components. Other applications are architectural panels, door cores, cabinetry and billboards.
How can mushroom roots become your furniture?
Myco Board is made from two components: mycelium (mushroom roots), which is the mass of interwoven filamentous hyphae that forms the vegetative portion of the thallus of a fungus, and agricultural waste. Ecovative has a large mycelium strain library and uses different species to achieve specific material properties. A team of internal and external professionals, lead by a chief mycologist, keeps the mycelium library running and harvests specimens seasonally. The other component, the agricultural waste, is simply bought from local farmers.
A growing process
The Myco Board production process starts by cleaning the agricultural waste and introducing it to the mycelium. Next, the mixture is bagged, to allow it to grow for several days. This is where the magic happens, as the mycelium sees the agricultural waste as food and reaches out to digest it. In doing so, it forms a matrix of white fibres. After a few days, when each particle is coated in mycelium, the material is broken into loose particles again. These particles are then put into a tool, which allows the mycelium to grow through and around the particles, forming a solid structure and filling all void spaces. A few days later, the material becomes solid. Finally, the product is dried to stop growth and to prevent it from producing mushrooms or spores.
Myco Board is urea-formaldehyde1 - and VOC2 -free, while having the same properties as conventional particle board. The material has an attractive all-natural surface finish, but can also be finished with a veneer or with paints or laminates.
Gunlocke, a US based provider of private office furniture, has collaborated with Ecovative to create a sustainable alternative for the outside seat back of their Savor Guest Seating, using Myco Board. It’s the first product in the furniture industry to use this unique cradle-to-cradle material. Another early adopter is Enjoy Handplanes, a company that sells hand planes, used to help bodysurfers to glide through the water.
Expanding the Myco family
Ecovative is also producing Myco Foam – a sustainable alternative for Styrofoam – and is currently developing other materials, such as Myco Flex, a biopolymer material which can be used as a replacement for shoe soles, seat cushions, lightweight core materials, and so on.
Ecovative is a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council and is recognised by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.