Scientific Breakthroughs

This Leather Mushroom Are ‘Pretty Strong’ Without the Expense of Animals’ Lives

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Leather mushrooms are being made by a San Francisco startup. This offers another option from real leather made from the skin of slaughtered animals.

The leather is known as a durable and flexible material made into wallets, bags, shoes, fashion accessories and more. However, it comes at the expense of an animal’s life. That is why many pro-animal life individuals have been against the use of leather.

MycoWorks, a San Francisco startup, discovered a way in making leather from a certain kind of fungi. It can be a good alternative for those who do not want real weather, but at the same does not like the plasticky feel of pleather, or “plastic leather.”

Mycelium Makes Leather Mushrooms

Mycelium Mushroom Roots

Mycelium as seen under a log. (Source: Wikimedia)

The company’s chief technical officer, Phil Ross, first got interested in mushrooms after collecting them for recipes in the 1980s. He also got hold of the mushroom expert Paul Stamets’ books which inspired him to grow fungi on his own.

During his personal experiments, he was introduced to mycelium, the vegetative structure of fungi. Moreover, he discovered mycelium can be coaxed into growing to different formations, with varying textures and shapes.

As an artist and a cook, Ross describes working with mycelium like “learning a cooking technique.” Later on, he was able to create architectural models from mycelium which caught the wind of many companies that later on led to the birth of MycoWorks.

But because construction market is hard to penetrate, their engineered wood from the mushroom project was scrapped. Ross, along with friends Sophie Wang and Eddie Pavlu who makes up the startup, then discovered a way of creating a material similar to leather out of mushrooms.

Work in Progress With Reishi Mushroom

The company primarily grows reishi mushroom since they are known to be the “safest and ubiquitously ingested fungus on the planet” according to Ross.

They can control the mushroom’s growing process with many factors and tweak it depending on the customer’s preference. In turn, the customer can customize and request for what they want specifically.

However, as a work in progress, there are still a lot of room to improve. As of now, they are still testing on how long the leather will last.They are also looking for more ways to scale up their production in order to create more leather mushrooms in a shorter period of time. Moreover, taking care of the leather may take more effort than pleather as fungi may feast on it.

They are also looking for more ways to scale up their production in order to create more leather mushrooms in a shorter period of time. Moreover, taking care of the leather may take more effort than pleather as fungi may feast on it.

Plant and microbial biology professor at University of California John Taylor is convinced at the quality of the leather, though. He says the material “feels like leather” and is actually “pretty strong.”

The creation of leather mushrooms is a great step in widening our options in the market when it comes to materials that are used in our daily lives.

Photo source: Flickr

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