GREEN ISLAND, NY — A packaging material made of mushroom roots and agricultural waste is lowering its energy footprint further with new sterilizing technology.
Ecovative Design, the maker of EcoCradle packaging and Greensulate insulation, creates its products by growing mushroom fibers on waste like cotton seed, wood fiber and buckwheat hulls.
To keep other spores off of the material, Ecovative uses a steam heat process, but with the help of an $180,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), it's working on a sterilization treatment made with natural oils that uses significantly less energy.
Ecovative's MycoBond technology already consumes one-tenth the energy used to manufacture foam packaging. The new treatment, made with a mix of cinnamon bark oil, thyme oil, oregano oil and lemongrass oil, lowers its energy needs down to one-fortieth, or about 2.5 percent, of that of foam.
The new method also allows Ecovative to grow its materials in the open air, and not just in the clean room environments it currently needs to grow. To make its packaging and insulation, Ecovative creates plastic molds, fills them with agricultural waste and adds mycelia, mushroom roots, which grown around and digest the waste. Once the material has grown into the shape, it's heat treated to stop the growth, and the packaging is done.
The company's EcoCradle packaging is being used by some Fortune 500 companies and others like Steelcase, which earlier this year announced it would ship certain products with EcoCradle, starting with its Currency line.
Founded in 2007 by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduates Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer, Ecovative has also received support from the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, in addition to the grant from the NSF's Small Business Innovation Research program.
EcoCradle - Edward Browka, Ecovative Design