Mycelia, the hair-like network of cells that grows in mushrooms, can be used to create a number of strong products, including building materials. Ecovative, a company that recently released a new mycelium-based “biofabrication platform," and has previously released products like mushroom furniture and MycoBoard, is betting on the substance.

Fast Company's Adele Peters writes:

“It’s using nature as a molecular assembler,” co-founder Eben Bayer says. Ecovative first launched a decade ago by making packaging, now used by Dell and Ikea, that injects farm waste products with mushroom spawn inside a mold. Days later, the mycelium completes the growth of the product, which can be used as a compostable alternative to Styrofoam. The same process can also be used to grow building materials.

The company’s new MycoFlex platform, which Ecovative announced at SynBioBeta, a synthetic biology conference in San Francisco, can create higher-performing materials. The company is now beginning to license the process to other manufacturers. “Our intellectual property is in understanding the growth and the growth processes that’ll coax mycelium to create these very complex structures, do so repeatedly, and do so at scale,” Bayer says.

The process involves growing trays of mycelia, along with a nutritious substrate, in long walk-in tunnels. By controlling temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, airflow, and other factors, it’s possible to control the geometry, density, size, and shape of the material.

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