Mushrooms made into chairs, bowls and other furniture could help to save the environment

A scientist from Doncaster says that ‘mushrooms could replace most things’ and have a massive positive environmental impact.

Tuesday, 4th June 2019, 9:01 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th July 2019, 12:27 pm

Mushrooms could replace polystyrene, according to 23-year-old Ashley Granter, a mycologist from Auckley.

Ashley did not foresee his future in mushrooms when he went to Sheffield Hallam University to study product design.

It was his hobby in diving which led to his passion for the environment and his introduction to the world of mushrooms.

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Bowl by Ashley Granter
Bowl by Ashley Granter

“I saw the amount of plastic in the seas and was just shocked. I realised then that I wanted to do something,” he said.

He uses horseshoe fungus to grow strains of mushroom which can be turned into a material called mycelium that can be crafted into various shapes.

Ashley said: “The general process is very simple, you take pure culture, which is the mycelium network growing on a sterile petri dish, and then transfer that to a spawning medium.

“Spawning medium refers to a food source that the mycelium can inhabit and use similar to how seeds work, this can then be used to mix in with a substrate where it then grows throughout the material, acting as a binder.

“The last stage is to break all the substrate up and form it into a mould, where it will re-consolidate itself and creates its final form which is then deactivated through heat and drying.”

The full uses of the material are not yet known and are still being researched but Ashley believes that it could replace polystyrene and housing insulation.

He said: “It could have a huge impact on the environment.

“Plastics last forever, they will outlive our lifespan.

“Whereas mycelium is compostable, it’s all natural and has no negative footprint on the planet.”

The material he creates takes just four to eight weeks to compost and would enrich the soil it’s placed into.

Ashley added: “I can see mushrooms replacing most things. That might be a very biased point of view but the ability to adapt and change the material’s characteristics are endless.

“Making it waterproof, flame retardant and changing its strength allows for a lot of material applications.”

Ashley co owns Natura but creates his mushroom pieces in his kitchen in Auckley.

He collects the mushrooms from silver birch trees in a forest in Bawtry and then grows cultures.

“Natura is co founded by myself and my uni friend Samuel Heath who's an industrial designer. It’s set up as a sole trader at the moment,” Ashley explained.

“The possibilities are still not known, recently a leather substitute has been made so it could even be used in the clothing industry,” he said.

Ashley would like to spread the message about the mushrooms advantages through art, sharing his pieces in art galleries and on Instagram to reach a bigger audience.

He said: “I want to challenge people’s perceptions of mushrooms.

“We were all told as children not to go near wild mushrooms, that they’re dangerous.

“But I want to open people’s minds to this new material.”

You might not see mushroom products stocking the shelves just yet but Ashley believes they will be all the rage in the coming months.

“Our typical customers are that of an already curious and impact-aware type.

“Often they are from London and have the money and flexibility to explore a new product or material.

“We have many plans for new products in the near future, it's just the case of sorting a relevant contractor for the manufacturing of molds at the moment, we hope to create a full home collection based around mycelium and the story it brings.”Their most popular product at the moment are the decorative bowls.

Ashley said: “The best way at the moment to get one of our products is to get in touch directly through email, Instagram or phone in.

“We plan to have our website back up and running soon for easy purchase but we enjoy working closely with customers to create a product to their desire.”