Could this plastic-eating fungi be one solution for two of the world’s biggest crises — plastic waste and hunger?
Austrian design team cultivates plastic-eating mushrooms to combat hunger and pollution
Austrian design team Livin Studio has, in collaboration with Utrecht University, developed a novel fungi food product grown on plastic waste, along with a prototype incubator to grow it in, and even a range of unique culinary tools to eat it with.
The FUNGI MUTARIUM: Growing food on toxic waste
Fungi Mutarium is a prototype system that grows edible fungal biomass, mainly mycelium—the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of fine white filaments—as a new food product.
- The fungi is cultivated on specifically designed agar shapes that the designers called "FU".
- Agar is a seaweed based gelatin substitute and acts, mixed with starch and sugar, as a nutrient base for the fungi.
- The "FUs" are filled with plastics. The fungi is then inserted, it digests the plastic and overgrows the whole substrate.
- The shape of the "FU" is designed so that it holds the plastic and to offer the fungi a lot of surface area to grow on.
Its shape has been developed and inspired by mushrooms and other plants in nature. The user could easily be reminded of harvesting mushrooms in the wild when harvesting the "FUs".
How the Fungi mutarium works
- Waste plastic is first UV treated in the "Activation Cylinder" placed on the bottom of the mutarium. UV light sterilises the plastic and activates the degradation process of the plastic which makes it more easily accessible for the fungi.
- Plain “FU“ is placed in the mutarium´s Growth Sphere. This is done with pincers to work as sterile as possible.
- UV-sterilized plastic is put into the “FU“, ready to be digested.
- “Macerate“ (fungi sprouts in liquid nutrient solution) are extracted with a pipette from the Fungi Nursery.
- Extracted macerate is dropped into the “FUs“ to ignite the growing process.
- After a few of weeks, the ready-grown “FU“ can be taken out to be prepared and eaten.
Technologies like this are needed to address the critical issues of hunger and plastic waste
WHY: Food production has to be revolutionised and more technologies are needed to farm under extreme environmental conditions.
HOW: Scientific research has shown that fungi can degrade toxic and persistent waste materials such as plastics, converting them into edible fungal biomass. Livin Studio has been working with fungi named Schizophyllum Commune and Pleurotus Ostreatus. They are found throughout the world and can be seen on a wide range of timbers and many other plant-based substrates virtually anywhere in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Australia. Next to the property of digesting toxic waste materials, they are also commonly eaten.
As the fungi break down the plastic ingredients and don’t store them (like they do with metals) they are safely edible.
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