Super Mario and the Smurfs may have fictional fungal furniture, but that fantasy is about to be real life. Popular Science reports that a collaboration between New York-based Ecovative and North Carolina's bioMASON has borne sleek, modern furniture made of mushrooms.
A cursory look at these pieces would have you believe that they're made of wood and marble, but thanks to science and spores, they're actually formed from shrooms, agricultural waste, and microorganisms.
"What we do that is unique is that we use biological organisms to literally grow our product," Eben Bayer, CEO of Ecovative, tells the magazine. "In most cases, like when you brew beer, the organism you use is thrown away at the end. But the organism is the most beautiful part. And it is part of our furniture."
The collection, revealed at trade show Biofabricate 2016, consists of two pieces: a stool and a table. The table's legs and the base of the stool form when mushrooms grow in a controlled pattern. The mycelium, a.k.a. the "roots" of mushrooms, can form just about any shape. In this case, it's a mix of wood chips and hemp fibres. As the mushroom grows, everything comes together. Once the mushrooms deplete the nutrients in the base materials, it dies and hardens. Then, Ecovative compresses it all down to create something similar to particle board.
"It's really learning from nature," says Ginger Krieg Dosier, CEO of bioMASON, the company creating the tabletops. "We can explore different shapes and different applications for this technology just by changing the size of the sand, the temperature or pH levels, and by adding colours to the mix."
According to Popular Science, those parts of the furniture collection consist of "bacteria that form calcium carbonate around grains of sand." It's the same process that makes seashells and coral reefs.
It takes about a week to produce a piece of mushroom-and-seashell furniture. And lest you think this scientific marvel costs more than a trip to Whole Foods, it's comparable to what's already on the market. A stool will set you back £200 and the table is £550. Both companies are hoping to take this tech even bigger. bioMASON has already created outdoor tiles that are being used in San Francisco. Ecovative has partnered with companies like Dell, which uses its special mycelium foam for packaging and more.