• KJ Ha

A Worthy Life of Mycelium

One of the many great things about mycelium is that they can easily be cultivated even in extreme conditions. There are also several experiments done in space highlighting the new ways of living suggested by mycelium in the harsh environments of the Moon and Mars (https://www.nasa.gov/feature/ames/myco-architecture).


Among diverse opportunity areas, I’m particularly interested in its potential to replace conventional packaging materials such as styrofoam, and plastic (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACoA6vUD-h8). As most of us know we waste an extensive amount of materials just for the packaging. I often wonder if I’m paying for packaging materials or for the real product.


People may say plastic can be recycled; however, the recycling cost, including trash collection and transportation fees, exceeds manufacturing cost. In the society governed by the market industry, there is no doubt that people will easily choose to produce more plastic than recycle it.



  • Mycelium does not consume any fossil fuels in its growing process

  • It uses only 12% of the energy used in plastic production

  • It produces 90% less carbon emissions than produced during plastic manufacture

  • Mycelium packaging is biodegradable

  • It takes very little energy for mycelium packaging to be recycled

  • Rural communities can benefit financially by supplying agricultural wastes to mycelium manufacturers



I first would like to grow my own mycelium and build a packaging material out of it. I personally want to test its feasibility and rigidity as a packaging material to see if it has a real potential to replace styrofoam or even plastic.


After conducting some experimentations, I would like to observe how it can be composted as a fertilizer for the plant. I particularly have been curious about its impact on plant communication and on its growing process (http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141111-plants-have-a-hidden-internet) since initial motivation took me here is my curiosity about how plants communicate with each other in comparison to the human way of communication.



Timeline

Feb 18 - 24

  • Order GIY(grow-it-yourself) kit

  • Research opportunity areas (+ real-world data)


Feb 25 - March 2

  • Start growing mycelium

  • Create the mold for packaging material


March 3 - 10

  • Document grow process of mycelium

  • Make it grow into the mold to have the desired form


March 11-17

  • Test its feasibility as a packaging material

  • Do experimentations to test its rigidity


March 18-24

  • Compost packaging material

  • Turn it into fertilizer


March 25-April 7

  • Compare the growing process of plants with/without mycelium fertilizer


April 8- April 15

  • Final documentation & conclusion



Concern


Last week, I ordered the GIY (grow-it-yourself) kit from GROWbio (https://grow.bio/). The one thing I'm worried about is that it may take extra time to receive mycelium from them since mycelium is not just a ready-made product but it is rather some sort of a lifeform that has to be grown. In the meantime, I plan to grow mycelium from a cardboard box and oyster mushrooms as indicated on https://www.instructables.com/id/Making-Mycelium/.



References:

https://ecovativedesign.com/ourfoundry

https://medium.com/wedonthavetime/ikea-starts-using-biodegradable-mushroom-based-packaging-for-its-products-42d079f98bb1

https://www.greenbiz.com/news/2010/08/10/mushroom-based-packaging-98-percent-less-energy-styrofoam






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