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Scientists develop vegan alternative to fungal leather

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Scientists have developed a vegan alternative to molded leather that looks and feels exactly like this.

Made by San Francisco-based biomaterials company MycoWorks, the faux leather is made from mycelium — the tubular filaments found on fungi.

The new material is more ethical and has a lower environmental impact than genuine leather, which is made from animal skins.

MycoWorks works closely with traditional leather workers ‘with expertise in making finished leather’ to make it indistinguishable from genuine leather.

Made by San Francisco-based biomaterials company MycoWorks, the vegan leather (pictured) is made from mycelium — the tubular filaments found on fungi

Mycelium (shown) is the tubular filaments found on fungi.  Mycelium grows in abundance almost everywhere on Earth

Mycelium (shown) is the tubular filaments found on fungi. Mycelium grows in abundance almost everywhere on Earth

WHAT IS MYCELIUM?

Mycelium is one of the world’s most powerful regeneration and carbon sequestration agents.

It is the fine network of threads that grow into mushrooms; a useful analogy is the roots and stem of a plant that eventually produces fruit.

Mycelium grows abundantly almost everywhere on Earth, often in the soil and between forest beds.

Source: MycoWorks

Clothing that uses mycelium is also said to be biodegradable, potentially eliminating the harmful environmental effects of ‘fast fashion’.

“It can give the same emotional response as animal teaching,” said Dr. Matt Scullin, CEO of MycoWorks, told The Guardian. “It has that hand feeling of rarity.”

Mycelium is the infinitely renewable root structure of fungi, while mushrooms are the ‘fruit’ of the fungi.

Leather substitutes can be produced from mold by upcycling cheap agricultural and forestry by-products such as sawdust.

These serve as food for the growth of mycelium – a matted mass of elongated fungal threads – which develop into a leaf and within a few weeks the fungal biomass can be harvested.

MycoWorks’ patented technology, called Fine Mycelium, can be grown from molds in trays within weeks.

Fine Mycelium “replicates the look and feel of leather and exceeds it in strength and durability,” the company said.

The technology enhances mycelium as it grows to achieve ‘unmatched strength and durability’.

MycoWorks says: 'We don't see Fine Mycelium as a replacement, but as a completely new material with its own characteristics'

MycoWorks says: ‘We don’t see Fine Mycelium as a replacement, but as a completely new material with its own characteristics’

Manufactured at the company's factories in California, Reishi is tanned and finished by its traditional tannery partner in Spain, Curtidos Badia

Manufactured at the company’s factories in California, Reishi is tanned and finished by its traditional tannery partner in Spain, Curtidos Badia

The final product, called Reishi, is tanned and finished by MycoWorkss’ tannery partner in Spain, a firm called Curtidos Badia.

MycoWorks does not see it as a replacement for genuine leather, but rather as ‘a completely new material with its own characteristics’.

Usually, leather is made from animals derived from cattle, as well as from sheep and lambs, goats, equines including horses, buffalo, pigs and even aquatic animals such as seals, whales and alligators.

Leather made from the skins of these creatures raises ethical concerns, as well as concerns about deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions associated with livestock farming.

The material is more ethical and has a lower environmental impact than genuine leather, which is made from animal skins

The material is more ethical and has a lower environmental impact than genuine leather, which is made from animal skins

MycoWorks' patented technology, Fine Mycelium, can be grown from molds in trays within weeks

MycoWorks’ patented technology, Fine Mycelium, can be grown from molds in trays within weeks

Environmentally friendly and ethically friendly ‘leather’ products will appeal to vegans who others would not consider true vegans unless they abstain from all types of products made from animals.

This way of thinking applies not only to an animal-free diet, but also to clothing and furniture or anything that may have to do with animal testing, such as makeup.

Vegan leather has already hit the catwalk – in 2019, eco-conscious designer Stella McCartney unveiled the first wallet made of mycelium.

She then exhibited sustainable mycelium bags at Paris Fashion Week in October as part of her Spring 2022 collection.

MYCELIUM SUITCASE HELPS BODY RECEIVE FASTER AND PRODUCE NUTRIINTS FOR SOIL SO THAT TREES AND PLANTS CAN GROW OVER GRAVES

A Dutch startup is going back to basics with a ‘mushroom box’ made from mycelium – the vegetative part of fungus that grows underground.

The Living Cocoon accelerates the decomposition process, removes toxic substances from the soil and helps to grow new trees and plants, according to the inventor, Bob Hendrikx.

An embalmed body in a wooden coffin can take more than 10 years to fully decompose, Hendrikx said, while a corpse in a living cocoon only takes two to three years.

Hendrikx said the green boxes are an important tool to reverse the destruction of the environment by mankind.

After extensive testing, Hendrikx’s first customer was buried in a Living Cocoon in September 2020.

Read more: Mycelium coffin offers green alternative for loved ones who have passed away

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