Leather handbags? Try mushroom, says one textiles manufacturing start-up
by Sadi Muktadir
MycoFutures' mycelium is an environmentally friendly mushroom fibre that can be turned into a textile without using plastic or other fossil fuels.
On Sept. 29, MaRS announced the launch of its next cohort of its Women in Cleantech accelerator, naming a number of women involved in start-ups in the advanced manufacturing space. One of the start-ups is considerably cleantech-focused, using mushrooms to create a new textile to serve as a leather alternative.
MycoFutures North Atlantic is an agri-tech start-up eyeing the manufacturing industry to help them scale up their operations in 2023 in the retail industry. The venture, between Stephanie Lipp, Co-Founder and CEO and her partner Leonedest Gillis, CTO and Co-Founder, is a Newfoundland-based company chasing growth through its involvement in the RBC Women in Cleantech Accelerator.
When Stephanie Lipp was asked what they were hoping to get out of their involvement in the program, she was clear.
“We see the program as helping us connect to the right people. We’re really hoping to meet researchers and experts that can help us test the integrity, sewing, strength and other properties of the mycelium.”
With this in mind, the CEO was also queried about where they saw the next 12 months taking them.
“We’re hoping that within the next three months, we’ll have 10x10cm pieces that we can test, and then have lab results, designs for a prototype farm, and have our first LOI’s secured. We want to be building an delivering our orders by 2024 at the earliest.”
MycoFutures’ mycelium is an environmentally friendly mushroom fibre that can be turned into a textile without using plastic or other fossil fuels, a fact that makes it more sustainable than its competitors, according to Lipp.
“To our knowledge, our two main competitors that are working with the bigger brands, are still using natural waste feed stocks and pulping the mycelium into sheets using fossil fuels, so there are some emissions being created in the manufacturing process,” she says. “Our mycelium process doesn’t use plastics or any fossil fuels during manufacturing.”
The company came together when Stephanie Lipp and her partner Leonedest Gillis decided to move out east to Bonavista, Nfld. Originally living in Mississauga, Ont., they wanted to start a business in their new home and decided that sustainability and self-sufficiency were important cornerstones for both themselves and their new locale.
Bonavista, Nfld. was the site of the cod moratorium in 90’s, and Lipp’s recognition of this legacy resulted in their desire to create a sustainable and self-sufficient advanced manufacturing idea that would become MycoFutures.
Retailers are ready too.
Lipp reports that major retailers that already have partnerships in place are hitting the market with products such as handbags, hats, and shoes that were manufactured with sustainable textiles or parts, and are waiting on further research results and lab studies before they determine full-scale production runs for more products.
With this in mind, the CEO of MycoFutures says that the bigger brands have a design and production cycle already in place that needs fulfilling, and it is more flexible to work with a smaller brand, because they can fit prototype products for testing, or small-batch capsule collections into their production cycle.
MycoFutures is being very particular about where they tread next, recognizing that they want a financing partner that has experience with biotechnology companies, and understands the risks involved in working with one, but most importantly, believes in affecting the retail manufacturing industry through a sustainability-focused approach.
Programs like the one offered by MaRS are attempting to mitigate the risk for advanced manufacturing startups, and this means that consumers may not need to wait too much longer before they too, can rock a mushroom handbag.