The city of the future has fungal superpowers!

Posted on 10 January 2019.

The Indonesian start-up Mycotech is growing mycelium-based building materials to create a more sustainable city.

A new market for local farmers - mycelium-based building materials recycle agricultural waste.

Indonesia is one of the most populous countries in the world. Its capital, Jakarta, which along with Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi forms the Jabodetabek megalopolis, is the largest urban agglomeration in Southeast Asia. Its population is expected to reach 35 million by 2020!
This demographic explosion is accompanied by a huge demand for housing, work and leisure spaces - and therefore for building materials. Building materials whose negative impact on the environment is well-known, in particular because large amounts of natural resources are extracted to produce them.
Bu what if we could "grow" tomorrow’s building materials? This is the idea behind the Indonesian start-up Mycotech, which makes the most of the incredible power of mycelia - the vegetative part of mushrooms consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae - to grow 30 x 30 cm building boards.
To make this amazing material, called BIOBO, the mycelium is injected into a sterilized substrate (made of agricultural organic by-products and waste collected from local farmers). The mixture is then placed in a mold inside a dark room.
The mycelium will then grow. It does exactly the same as it would in nature - it feeds on waste to create a dense network of tiny tangled filaments in and around the substrate, filling all the available space. After a few days, a solid, compact material is produced. It then just has to be removed from the mold, left to rest a little longer so it becomes more dense and dried to stop the mycelium’s growth.

Hello Mycotecture!

The method has a number of advantages. Firstly, it lessens pressure on natural resources. No overexploitation of sand or forests. In addition, it can be grown locally, which means it doesn’t have to be transported. And finally, cultivating it requires little energy or water.
The manufacturing process doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions. And moreover, the mycelium, which plays a major role in the carbon cycle, absorbs carbon elements. It doesn’t generate waste either, since the production of mycelium-based building materials makes it possible to recycle agricultural waste. It’s a new market for local farmers that gives them the opportunity to generate additional income.
Mycotech works with a number of Indonesian farmers who supply more than three metric tons of waste per month. And someday, when the biomaterial reaches the end of its life, it can be composted too.
All these advantages explain the growing success in construction industry of the mushroom-based solutions that have been developed by researchers and entrepreneurs in recent years. It is called "Mycotecture" and may well grow the furniture and houses of the future - like mushrooms!