Friday, April 24, 2015

Mushrooms on My Pizza(Box)

Earlier this week New York-based start-up Ecovative, Inc. announced plans to team up with a designer, Danielle Trofe, to demonstrate the flexibility of its proprietary construction materials made from MUSHROOMS!  Ecovative mixes agriculture waste with mycelium, the thread-like hyphae that make up fungus.  A single spore can germinate into a complex mass of branching hyphae running through the waste fibers.  The mix is placed in a desired mold for a few days to allow the mycelia to grow and permeate the fibers like a self-assembling glue.  The result is a durable material that can be cut and finished to a final product. 

Ecovative has its eye on a number of markets for its ‘mushroom’ material.  The highly durable material contains no toxic additives and is flame retardant.  Flexibility in production and low cost of raw materials are also keys to opening up possibilities for Ecovative.   The company has been working a number of leading companies on packaging alternatives, including Dell Computers and Crate and Barrel, to replace polyethylene foam and peanuts used for shipping.      

The company has set its sights on an even larger market opportunity than shipping and packaging material.  Ecovative is ‘growing’ a high-performance material they plan to market as a substitute for engineered words like plywood and particle board.  This familiar material is composed of wood chips pressed together with glue that can contain toxic formaldehyde.   Sheets of Ecovative’s mycelium-laced agricultural waste are compressed with heat into boards and molded shapes that can be used as alternatives to conventional plywood or particle board.  A big plus for Ecovative is that it contains no toxic chemicals for the same level of durability.

The demonstration scheduled for May 10th in Brooklyn, New York will give consumers a chance to see how Trofe uses the Ecovative material technology to form components for her home interior designs.  Investors will have a little more trouble get a view of Ecovative’s financial performance.  As a private company, they share no details of their sales or bank account.  The company was started in 2007, and has been the recipient of several grants from the U.S. EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others.  Interestingly, they appear receptive to conversations with investors and provide contact information for motivated parties.
Packaging for pizza boxes is not on Ecovative’s list of accomplishments, but its materials appear flexible enough to be used for consumer packaging.  No mushrooms will not grow on the box!

Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein.

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