Renewable Resources: Can Mushrooms Fix Our World?


Renewable raw materialsCan mushrooms fix our world?

They are credited with a radical power of change: in addition to food and medicine, mushrooms can be made into compostable houses, leather and much more. The potential is huge.

Only the fruiting body is visible from the mushrooms. A larger network of underground mycelium could change the world of goods.

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It’s about it

  • Mushrooms can replace CO2-intensive raw materials.

  • They are said to have huge potential in the production of products.

  • Mushrooms can be used to make shoes, clothes, furniture and houses.

  • Research and experiments are still being carried out, the mass market does not yet exist.

They look like creatures from another planet: mushrooms. They are neither plants nor animals. Only 140,000 of the estimated five million species of fungi are known. Only the fruiting body is visible and often only in cooked form. By far the largest part of fungi lives underground, networks, communicates – and can take on enormous dimensions.

For example, in Oregon, USA. The dark honey fungus here covers an area of ​​more than nine square kilometers. The age of the mushroom is estimated at 2400 years. In the Engadin, there is also a thousand-year-old representative of the species – it measures 500 to 800 meters.

The radical transformative power of mushrooms

However, mushrooms do not increase in importance because of their age: in many areas they are considered as alternative raw materials for otherwise CO2-intensive products. There has been a real hype about the power of mushrooms as potential saviors of the environment.

The medicinal effects of mushrooms have been known for a long time. In 1928, British physician Alexander Fleming extracted penicillin from a fungus – thus developing the first antibiotic. Since then, eukaryotic organisms have had a permanent place in medicine. Mushrooms are also welcome helpers in the production of cheese or in the washing and blanching processes.

From shoes to furniture and houses

Mushrooms are more suitable with their structure. They consist of so-called hyphae – individual microscopic fibers – which connect to form a network of mycelia.

For example, animal skin can be replaced by mushroom products. American start-up Mycoworks developed a method of specifically growing mycelium in a twisted form. This creates a particularly resistant skin substitute called Reishi. Also The automotive industry has discovered a sponge skin for itself.

New York start-up Ecovative Design uses sponges and waste materials to produce an alternative to chipboard that can be used to make furniture. With a product called Myco Foam, Ecovative Design also offers a substitute for polystyrene and offers a sponge filling for cushions with Mycoflex.

Several pioneers are experimenting with the production of building materials. The Swiss company Mycosuisse in Emmenbrücke, for example, has developed so-called mushroom stones and stable floor panels based on mushrooms. Houses made from mushrooms would be compostable and could one day replace high-CO2 concrete. Mushroom products are also suitable as insulating, moisturizing and packaging materials and as biofuel.

Mushrooms as problem solvers of the future

It is believed that since 17 sustainable development goals, which were defined by the UN in 2015, solved ten problems using mushrooms – mainly in the field of nutrition.

In short: mushrooms are said to have a radical power of change. However, there is still no mass market for mushroom-based products, and there is still niche research and production. The Fraunhofer Institute therefore expects five to ten years of development before mushrooms can fully harness their magical power to remediate the environment.

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