Your fun-guide to mycelium in fungi
Updated: Feb 13, 2022
For decades, the public's attention focused heavily on plants and their part to play in sustainability. Fungi tends to be overlooked, notably the mycelium part of a fungi that is important to solve sustainability problems. When really the mycelium has been an amazing contributor to mycelium packaging, mycelium leather, and mycelium bricks.
We want to break down the reasons why and list down startups tapping into this ecosystem powerhouse to help solve SDGs topics such as food security, agriculture technology, and circular economy. Even though they are not visible, mycelium is an important player in future sustainable cities and communities.
Mycelium, ourcelium, theircelium
The thing about mycelium is that it impacts us and it is severely underrated.
What is this mycelium?
Mycelium is basically:
and it is found underneath the fruiting body.
Did you know?
Mycelium's amazing network that can extend for kilometers!
More importantly, they also help transport carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and water between plants via these fungal networks. (Source: Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake Chapter 5)
They give a new meaning to "your network is your net worth"!
Mycelium & Sustainability
Mycelium plays a big part in keeping the sustainability movement forward. Here are three interesting ways that it does what it does in an amazing way:
Helping numerous plants survive | Much-room to grow
Lichens (symbiotic form of fungi) provides nutrients to plants while getting carbon in return and ultimately reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
Soil is held together by mycorrhizal mycelium and helps the soil retain nutrients, quality of harvest and the plants ability to fight off diseases
A warning system | Fungi / fun guide
Mycelium helps to maintain an ecosystem healthy by notifying plants of incoming diseases or pests through it's network that can span up up to thousand kilometers long!
Mycelium meeting various sustainability goals | OUR-CELIUM
becoming building materials, packaging, fabric
breaking down agricultural waste from palm oil
filtering of diseases in water, and pollutants in soil
increasing nutrients: abundance of mycorrhizal fungi is higher in organically managed fields and their fungal communities are more complex
Threats to sustainability when Mycelium is unappreciated
However, bad farming practices are undermining sustainability indirectly when mycelium is harmed
Intensive farming practices e.g. over reliance on chemical fertiliziers have reduced the abundance of mycorrhizal fungi thus affecting soil microbes quality and diversity
Despite a seven hundred fold increase in fertilizer use, agricultural yields have plateaued
Mycorrhizal fungi channels flood the soil with nutrients that increase harvest quality
"most modern crop varieties have been developed with little thought for their ability to form high-functioning mycorrhizal relationships" (Source: Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake)
Sustainability Startups Embracing Mycelium
Helping to bring a healthy spotlight on this amazing ecosystem player are 3 startups in Southeast Asia tapping into Mycelium:
Mycotech from Indonesia
Their amazing MYCLR Circular Economy Practice boosts an innovative Mushroom Leather inspired by Tempeh! Yes tempeh, that delicious traditional Javanese food made from fermented soybeans that probably pairs amazingly well with mushrooms!
According to the startup, the mycelium network of fibers is agile, collaborative, and naturally strong which opens to a world of possibilities for them to build material such as for Batam Housing Project, furniture ("fungiture"), shoes for Bro.do and more!
Mycovation from Singapore
Part of a bigger ecosystem of complementary startups under RENERGii Asia aiming to create Asian cities into Triple-Zero urban spaces that are ecologically sustainable spaces.
They are Asia’s first Mycoprotein technology company aiming to unlock how mycelium can produce better food such as replacing animal protein to make food systems more sustainable and resilient.
Their three pillars includes:
MYX - Better ingredients from mycelium.
Mymic - The most realistic meat alternatives.
Maximyze - Formulating clean-label supplements
PS. Shiva Susarla from RENERGii Asia shared with us 3 Big Opportunities for Circular Food Production and Reverse Logistics last year in March, check it out! Hear how mycelium complements his circular economy strategy.
Fargreen from Vietnam
Fargreen has an interesting business model that includes a closed-loop production process whereby they have a unique technique that uses rice straw to produce edible mushrooms so that no net waste is left at the end of the production process.
With the passionate aim of growing a sustainable, climate-resilient farming communities in Vietnam and beyond, their ethos is to eat good, do good, and share good.
They are also encouraging a ground up mushroom growing movement by providing portable mushroom growing kits that are a space saver and eco-friendly addition to your home.
Interseed aims to become a resource center for all things sustainability related. Want to know more about SDGs insights or would like to share some? Check out our open-sourced market research portal on our sustainability platform!