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Even More than Food and Medicine

BY: Camila Loew

Here at Cokare, we are known for our love of fungi; our premium product line, which we stand behind fervently, is proof of our firm belief in the power of mushrooms. Their potential to nourish and heal is beyond comparison in the natural world; science is finding more and more benefits fungi have on our health and the planet's. From the immune system to the nervous system and a long etc., taking fungi as a complement to your diet is a mighty way to strengthen your health naturally.

Moreover, the power of fungi transcends the fields of food and medicine. In recent years, mycelium -the vegetative part of fungi, which is most often underground; mushrooms are the fruit- is being used extensively in the field of biodesign. Just as current health-field trends are toting that mushrooms are the future of medicine, fashion and design experts are responding to the revolution by using mycelium as a cornerstone of bio-based materials. In fact, mycelium may just be the protagonist in the future (the near one, at that) of bio-based materials. This may be due to the fact that mycelium grows so easily, it can be obtained in mass amounts, much more so than other bio-materials that originate from food waste, such as coffee grounds or eggshells.

Mycelium is threadlike, and its filaments are conduits for protoplasm, which is made up of amino acids, proteins, lipids, and polysaccharides. Mycelium is thus a natural alternative to synthetic polymers. Researchers and designers are taking advantage of the fact that mycelium can grow from any organic waste matter containing cellulose, a natural sugar-based polysaccharide, which they use as food.

Architecture and interior design researchers are some of the first to take on the use of mycelium in innovation. The Italian startup Mogu, for example, has recently launched resilient, sustainable acoustic and paving panels developed by cultivating mycelium. And did we mention that they are pretty good-looking to boot? The American startup Ecovative, in addition to developing a plant-based meat from mycelium, also uses mycelium from food waste to produce Mycocomposte, an eco-packaging material which is light, flexible, shock-absorbing, and fire and water resistant, and thus a great alternative to more harmful packaging materials still being used too profusely.

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Fungi are also a key reference currently in the world of fashion. To begin with, they stand as a potent symbol of the transformation and rebirth we are all seeking post-pandemic. As such, they a big inspiration for fashion designers in this year?s Paris Couture week. Iris van Herpen's splendorous 2021 "Roots of Rebirth" collection up-cycles fabrics and uses the planet's underworld as inspiration for the entire line. Another Dutch designer, Aniela Hoitink, created designs from a flexible composite she named MycoTex back in 2016. She then went on to create textiles, such as the beautiful Neffa dress, exclusively made from pure mycelium, with no additional fibers.

Recently, US biotech company Bolt Threads received backing from several frontline brands such as Adidas, lululemon and Stella McCartney to develop a mycelium-based vegan leather called Mylo, which will be released sometime this year.

Startups are big on mycelium, it's clear. But even on a more institutional level, mycelium is taking hold: prestigious schools such as the University of Toledo in Spain, Parsons school of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology (the latter in collaboration with MIT) in the US are currently using mycelium in sustainable biodesign projects in the fashion and design world. Mycelium is here to stay?

It's clear that mycelium's potential is far-reaching and apparently inexhaustible. With the use of mycelium extending to all of these new fields, however, a big question arises, which we invite you to reflect on with us: will a mass transition to the use of bio-based materials such as mycelium allow for an environmental balance, which meets the requirements of the future? Share your thoughts with us, we'd love to hear you.

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