Mycotech, an Indonesian start-up based in Bandung, was created to create building materials that are not affordable, durable, recyclable, and eco-friendly by applying mushroom mycelium technology for the reuse of agricultural waste. A traditional Indonesian dish, the Tempeh made by fermenting soybeans with fungus, inspired the team to start researching.
Mycotech took its first steps in the home kitchen, with a pressure cooker to experiment with the binding properties of mushroom mycelium. From here, thanks to the Australia Awards Alumni Grant Scheme, as well as the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant Award 2017 and 2018, the research continued with studies on the waste materials of palm oil production, up to lead, in 2019, to the first shipment of entrance doors for residential homes made, precisely, of recycled palm oil waste in Australia.
Mycelium is the vegetative apparatus of fungi and is formed by an interweaving of filaments called hyphae, tubules in which the protoplasm flows. Hyphae can be unicellular or multicellular, in multicellulars, individual cells are delimited by walls that are called septa. However, the septa are equipped with a hole that allows the passage of the protoplasm. The set of these hyphae make up the true body (Tallo) of the fungus.
Footprint and sustainability
Mycotech chooses to change, to step away from the mass of “normal” societies, and to deep focus on sustainability.
Reach the goal in 6 steps:
- Nature-based Polymers: designing Bio-Based Polymers to fit the Eco-Friendly Lifestyle. 100% Natural-Based Polymer, Made Safely and Naturally.
- Animal-Free Production: no animals were harmed to make any of our products. Zero animals involved, completely cruelty-free materials.
- Carbon Footprint: maintaining a high-efficiency level, in turn reducing harmful gas emission. Maintaining sustainability as a Certified B Corporation, monitored by third-party management.
- Agricultural & Industrial Waste: repurposing scraps and adding value to waste to reduce injury to the Earth and bring benefit to the people. 251 Kgs of Agroforestry waste upcycled every month.
- Chemical Traceability: carefully formulating the perfect environmentally-friendly materials. Constantly monitoring the seven post-production waste parameters* to comply with the local regulations, SNI (National Standardisation Agency of Indonesia).
*BOD5, COD, TSS, Phenol, Chromium, Ammonia, pH.
- Water Management: Making sure the production process keeps the planet safe from toxicity. 0% The chromium in post-production wastewater is compiled according to the local regulations, SNI (National Standardisation Agency of Indonesia) of below 1 ppm
Mycotech, in addition to being committed to the sustainable production of its materials, is committed to maintaining the socially sustainable production chain. The company employs local mushroom growers to help produce the basic material before it undergoes further processing at the Mycotech plant. The future potential for creating new job opportunities is immense.
With this in mind, the start-up is already thinking about the future in terms of scalability and expects to remain true to its fundamental value of environmentally friendly production and the hiring of locals by providing for the possibility of building plants next to the source of agricultural waste to reduce carbon footprints, while maintaining local farmers of original mushrooms for research and development purposes.
The start-up finds a suitable fungus whose mycelium can be used effectively as a binder.
After this fundamental step the company, which initially grows the fungus on sawdust, begins to produce Mycelium Leather.
This Leather is fibrous and resistant but flexible and waterproof and is an ecological alternative to synthetic products or natural animal leather.
The production process consists of growing mushrooms on sawdust or wood chips (cultures are developing on other waste materials), after which the product is scraped from sawdust, it is dried and finally cut into various sizes, depending on the use.
The process at the moment is long and tedious, to produce 10sqm of skin takes about three weeks. But it’s worth it for the benefits that this system brings.
The production of mycelium costs less than producing synthetic oil-based skins and a fraction of the carbon dioxide emitted by the cows killed to produce real skin is produced. Also, this type of skin absorbs tincture, strictly produced from extracts of leaves, roots, and food waste, much faster than an animal tincture.
The inclusion of Mycotech materials in the construction world aims to subvert the trend of the classic market for building materials with the use of sustainable and natural substances. Traditional materials such as cement and steel are produced by extremely energy-intensive and polluting processes both in terms of extraction of raw materials, processing, transport, and installation.
Moreover, most conventional materials, such as gypsum and brick panels end their life in landfills, are not biodegradable, and contribute to significant amounts of greenhouse gases throughout their life cycle.
Unlike classic building materials, Mycotech building panels and insulating materials have a very short 14-day production cycle, which makes them extremely sustainable. They are also 100% biodegradable, robust, lightweight, and fireproof, making them easy to carry, reducing the carbon footprint. Last but not least, they cost up to 80% less than conventional materials.