Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre developed and patented a method for growing mycelium-based insulation called Greensulate as part of a course project at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 2007, the pair founded Ecovative Design to use mycelium to grow materials that replace plastics and reduce animal slaughter. They first developed and commercialized production of mycelium-based packaging called Mushroom® Packaging, which is used by a number of top brands. Since their founding, the company has received numerous awards and holds dozens of patents for mycelium-based packaging and materials, including a leather alternative. Investments and partnerships in 2011 allowed the company to increase their staff and open a 35,000 ft² (~3250 m²) Mycelium Foundry located in Green Island, NY. In 2019, the company announced an investment of $10 million to open an advanced research facility for mycelium in California with an initial focus on mycelium-based meat.
Ecovative Designs has developed three platforms: Atlast™ for mycelium meat (Their spinoff Atlast Food Co. released mycelium bacon in 2020); MycoComposite™ for mycelium-bound composites for packaging and building materials; and MycoFlex™ for 100% mycelium foams and leather alternatives. We evaluate MycoFlex™ leather in this profile.
Ecovative Design creates Mushroom Leather using their MycoFlex™ platform and a non-toxic tanning process. This mycelium material can be used in a variety of applications in fashion, accessories, and footwear.
Production process: Mycelial Growth
The MycoFlex™ platform grows mycelium on agricultural waste to produce Mushroom Leather that offers a sustainable alternative to both animal- and plastic-based leathers. The process can be tuned to desired characteristics, including texture, strength, and resilience.
Mycelial growth for leather production uses less water, energy, and land than bovine leather and receives high marks for animal welfare. Uncoated mycelium leather is biodegradable and less toxic to the environment than conventional bovine leathers and plastic alternatives.
Although the mycelium foam made via the MycoFlex™ platform has been used as glove liner, backpack straps, and in high performance footwear, we have not yet seen products made with Ecovative Design’s Mushroom Leather. As other mycelium leathers, though, Mushroom Leather could at least be used in fashion, footwear, and accessories.
Mushroom Leather sample
Images from Ecovative Design.