2018 Winners

Future Fungi - An environmental solution to plastic issue

My business idea is called Future Fungi and it focuses on solving the plastic trash disaster issue across the planet by introducing a new environmental-friendly material.

Mushroom spores, are added to waste products such as sawdust and grown into marketable items using mushroom roots, also known as mycelium. These grown material will go through a modeling and baking stage to create the desired product. Unlike plastic and styrofoam items that are non-biodegradable, Future Fungi’s products are 100% biodegradable and can be added to compost pile or farm land soil. Also, they have unique qualities such as shock absorbent and fire retardant which are superior when compared to plastic.

Future Fungi has received a provisional patent for this process and has successfully created first stage prototypes of eco-friendly packing peanuts, cups/planting pots and panel only using mushroom material with natural waste products. These prototypes were presented to Senators and House District members of the state of West Virginia, USA during the 15th Annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in February 2018 at Charleston, WV, USA.

 

Plastic trash takes a very long time to biodegrade, ranging from 100 - 650 years for just a small piece of plastic to be broken down by the nature. This process takes more than a human life time and the main problem is that we just have too much of it. We use plastic in many ways in our lives and unfortunately the majority of them are for one time use such as plastic bags or styrofoam coffee cups. During a research done by Institute for Sustainable Communications, just in the U.S. 2.5 million plastic bottles are used everyday from which only 1 - 2% will be recycled by the end of each year. The rest of 98% of these plastic trash material will be either dumbed in the landfills or thrown into the lakes, rivers, sea and eventually into the ocean. It takes hundreds of years for plastic trash to degrade on land but in water, it will stay there for thousands of years. In fact, in the North Pacific ocean there is an area the size of Turkey with only floating plastic rubbish which is estimated more than 300,000 miles squared. These material are showing their negative outcome in wildlife, living organisms in the sea and will eventually make its disastrous way back to us humans.


I believe that we are in need of a new recyclable material, something that would have the similar qualities as plastic but at the same time not damaging the ecosystem. I am certain that mushrooms will play a beneficial role to solve this global problem.



During my scientific researches on mushroom material, I have learned about the unique qualities of mushroom roots which are also known as mycelium. It will bound over natural material and grows on them like an intertwined network of webs. Future Fungi is using mushroom mycelium and waste products to grow items instead of manufacturing. Waste products which are rich in fibrous materials such as sawdust or wood chips are useful options for this process. Mushroom spores are added to the waste products and through a molding and baking process will turn into marketable items.


Some key factors of an item processed through these steps are that they will be very lightweight, shock absorbent, fire and water proof. In fact as of now we do not have a product on the market that has all of these qualities at once. Also, one of the most important aspects is the biodegrading stage. Once these grown materials have served their purpose, they could be broken down into smaller pieces and added into the soil to naturally biodegrade. This biodegrading step not only speeds up the naturally recycling stage but also adds lots of nutrients to the soil which can be potentially used as a natural fertilizer on the farm land.


So in short, Future Fungi is adding value to waste products such as sawdust by adding mushroom spores and creates marketable items with unique qualities through molding, growth and baking stages. Once the products are used they will go back into the nature and soil as a nutritional fertilizer through a biodegrading stage.


We are solving a global problem and empowering natural resources at the same time.

 

Achievements:

• Received New River Gorge Regional Development Authority grant

• Received Robert C. Byrd Institute Business Assistant grant

• Participated in Robert C. Byrd Institute TEN50 Business accelerator program

• Semi-Finalist during Saint Louis University Real Elevator Business Pitch Competition

• Semi-Finalist during West Virginia University Show of Hands Business Pitch Competition

• Presented Future Fungi as an environment-friendly business idea and innovative scientific research to Senators and House District members of the state of West Virginia during 15th Annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol

 

Learn more about Future Fungi on the official Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/FutureFungi/

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2018 Winners
Idea No. 334