The team came together as gourmet mushroom producers in 2012. Inspired by tempeh, a traditional Indonesian dish, they began doing makeshift research using pressure cookers to grow new materials. To create tempeh, soybeans are bound together by the mycelial growth of the fungus Rhizopus oligosporus. Using a similar process, Mycotech has been growing mycelium on agricultural waste since 2015.
In partnership with the Indonesian government research agency and with laboratories in Singapore and Switzerland, Mycotech created mycelium composite panels called BIOBO as their first product. In 2019, the company ran a kickstarter campaign to scale up their leather alternative Mylea. Their catchphrase “not leather, but better” showcases their commitment to creating sustainable and affordable products from renewable resources.
The company sees their material as a leather alternative for use in accessories and possibly shoes. Mylea is uncoated, which improves sustainability measures, but decreases durability.
Production process: Mycelial growth
Mycelium is essentially the root system of mushrooms. To make Mylea, fungal spores grow using agricultural plant waste as food and the mycelium takes the shape of the form used. According to the company, Mylea can absorb dye faster and better, resulting in cheaper production cost. Using plant-based dyes exclusively allows them to create unique colors.
The substrate for the mycelial growth is plant waste products. This use reduces burning of waste and generates additional income for farmers. Compared to bovine leather, Mylea uses a fraction of the water and takes far less time in its production.
No toxic chemicals and no animals or animal products are used in the production, dying, and tanning of Mylea. Unlike the tanning process for animal-based leather, the Mylea tanning process is chromium-3 free. Using botanical dyes from indigenous plants means that their material does not contaminate the local water supply.
Mylea samples show several possible dye colors.
In their Kickstarter, Mycotech offered the Mylea-band watches (left and right), traveller’s journals with Mylea covers (center top, center left), and Mylea card wallets (center right) pictured here.
Images from Mycotech.
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