Frequently Asked Questions

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BIO CONTROL & BIOSTIMULANTS

What are biocontrol and biostimulants?

Both biocontrol and biostimulants are products used in combination with plant cultivation. Both types of products claim certain properties, but they have a very different approach.

Biocontrol is the use of living organisms or natural substances to prevent or reduce damage caused by pests (pests, weeds and pathogens).

There are 4 categories based on:

  • 1 macro-organisms (insects, nematodes)
  • 2 micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria or fungi)
  • 3 chemical mediators (pheromones)
  • 4 natural substances of mineral, plant or animal origin.

Biostimulants are substances or micro-organisms applied to the plant and that stimulates the plant nutrition process independently of the nutrients they contain, with the sole purpose of improving one or more plant characteristics (nutrient use efficiency, abiotic* stress tolerance and crop quality).
Since they do not provide significant amounts of nutrients, they are considered complementary to fertilisers and soil improvers which they do not replace.

Biostimulants do not act on plant defence mechanisms against a specific aggressor or disease. Instead, in combination with fertilisers and amendments, they contribute to better nutrition and plant vigour.

* Abiotic: all the physico-chemical factors that influence the cultivated ecosystem (water, temperature, state of the soil, etc.)

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MEDICINE

We will add more questions soon. Thank you for your patience.

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FOOD AND FEED

Do you supply mycelium for food applications?

Yes, we have an extensive strain collection. We have identified a number of strains that can be used for said applications. If you’re interested to develop a product, get in touch with our R&D department through the contact form on our Research page.

I want to make meat substitutes based on mushrooms. How can we cooperate?

We can definitely play a role. We have worked on meat substitutes in the past, but usually together with one or more of our partners. It will involve the input from several actors as such a development is typically achieved through a multidisciplinary approach.

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MYCOMATERIALS

What are mycomaterials?

Mycomaterials are mycelium-based materials. With mycomaterials, we can create objects which are either completely or partially comprised of fungal mycelium. We make them by growing filamentous fungi on organic materials such as agricultural waste streams. When they are a mix of mycelium + substrate, they are called a biocomposite. When they are just the mycelium fraction, they are called pure mycomaterials.

They are considered “novel biomaterials” and they represent a promising ecological alternative for product design and manufacturing. The ecological benefit is attributed to both sustainable manufacturing processes and circular lifespan.

There are roughly 3 different types of mycomaterials:

  • molded mycomaterials = biocomposites grown in a mold and dried to ‘freeze’ the object into a specific shape e.g. insulation panels, design objects, sound panels
  • pressed mycomaterials = biocomposites grown in beds and pressed into a specific shape e.g. building panels, bricks, car parts
  • pure mycomaterials = grown on top of molds or beds or in liquid form and harvested pure from the substrate e.g. mycelium leather, mycelium bacon

Important notes:

  • We conduct research on mycomaterials and we grow inoculum to produce them. We do not produce large amounts of mycomaterial objects ourselves.
  • We are a professional company, we produce large quantities of products. We are not interested to research small volumes or unique objects.
I am an artist / designer and I have a project with Mycelium. Can we work together?

Probably not.

It is indeed our business model to transform concepts into products. But we get too many requests in order to accomodate everybody. Over the past years, we have worked on acoustic panels, a lamp, a boat and some chairs. Do you really want to push your concept inthe next project of our R&D department? Then get in touch with us through the R&D contact form and tell us all about your crazy idea.

Important notes:

  • We conduct research on mycomaterials and we grow inoculum to produce them. We do not produce large amounts of mycomaterial objects ourselves.
  • We are a professional company, we produce large quantities of products. We are not interested to research small volumes or unique objects.
Can mycomaterials indeed be used as environmentally friendly packaging?

Indeed they can.

Molded mycomaterials are shaped and grown in a certain mold until they are fully mature. Then, they are unmolded and dried. This drying step kills the mycelium and as a result, the mycelium can do no more harm. It is safe to use to package any product. This type of “packaging” mycomaterials (mold grown mycomaterials) is very lightweight, strong, durable and fire retardant.

How environmentally friendly are mycomaterials?

This is a simple question. Sorry to break it to you, but the answer is not.

Without doubt, there is an ecological benefit. Mycomaterials are more environmentally friendly to produce than polystyrene or polyurethane and when they reach their end of life, they can be fully recycled by nature itself. But there are negative aspects too.

For starters, solid state fungi are notoriously difficult to cultivate. Anybody serious who has ever been involved will agree: if you thought tomatoes were hard, try fungi and think again.

Let’s picture the production method of molded mycomaterials as an example.

Firstly, you need to moisten agricultural waste and put in a plastic bag. Secondly, you heat treat the bag, at least at 65°C for a number of hours. Immediately after, cool down the hot bag and inoculate with strictly axenic inoculum under a Laminar Air Flow. Then, for a number of days, incubate the bags under controlled temperature. At the end of this incubation phase, transfer the bag content to a plastic mold, again under cleanroom conditions and initiate the second incubation phase under controlled conditions. Finally, when the substrate is fully incubated, dry your object in an oven. Now you can sell it.

Additionally, there are important uncertainties:

  • The first question concerns energy balance. What is the energetical value of this product as compared to for example polystyrene? It is biodegradable, sure, but is it a better option in terms of energy cost? See al production steps above, with the emphasis on heat treatment, cooling and climate control during incubation.
  • The second question concerns CO2: are mycomaterials a carbon sink? During growth, fungi release CO2 and consume O2, just like animals. However, quite some carbon remains trapped within the mycomaterial itself. The total balance is positive, but not as a result of fungal growth. The fungal growth actually has a negative net impact on carbon storage in these materials. But we need to consider the complete picture: 1) a lot of carbon remains trapped in the plant materials and 2) when replacing products such as polystyrene, there is a large CO2 benefit and 3) using fungi as an advanced binding agent relieves us from using glue
  • The third question concerns efficiency. No matter how clean, considerable losses are commonplace in the production of fungi. They are living organisms and have to deal with a very well adapted and omnipresent competition. Losses of 5% are not unusual and this has a huge effect on cost.

There is a need for a proper LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) in order to address the ecological value of the product. Some attempts for such LCA’s have already been made, but we are still not entirely convinced.

To end with a positive note: in the future, the production system for mycomaterials can and will be optimized. The production process will become less energy intensive if we can use exhausted mushroom substrates for example, or if we can produce in countries where sun-drying is possible, or if we can produce with very fast-growing species.

Which of your strains do you suggest to use for the production of mycomaterials?

We recommend to choose one of the 5 following strains :

  • M2191 Pleurotus ostreatus
  • M9726 Ganoderma lucidum
  • M9740 Fomes fomentarius
  • M9901 Pycnoporus sanguineus
  • M9911 Trametes versicolor.

The end result depends highly of the methology and the substrate which is used. All strains are fast growing and have a thick mycelium, but M9726 Ganoderma lucidum has the sturdiest, thickest one with a silky surface. M9901 Pycnoporus sanguineus is a tropical species, hence it requires higher temperatures for fast growth (25–28°C), but the mycelium can have a nice orange/red colour.

Any more inputs on which strains I should use for developing strong biocomposites?

We’ve run trials on hemp hurds, chopped straw, miscantus and sawdust mixtures, among others. We found that additional enrichment of the substrate (malt extract, flour) tended to increase contamination rates as the substrate became more favourable for non-ligninolytic fungi. These findings are in sync with our observations from the traditional mushroom production industry.

We have a wide range of ligninolytic fungi strains availiable, that all offer different characteristics in regard to material properties and optimal growing conditions.

Common choices for this would be:
Pleurotus ostreatus (2191) – Faster growth, good flexibility, but lower overall biocomposite strength
Ganoderma lucidium (9726) – Most common strain used in commercial and research mycomaterials so far
Pycnoporus sanguineus (9901) – Reliable, interesting colour
Trametes versicolor (9911) – Reliable, strong white network
Fomes fomentarius (9740) – Slower, but but denser outer layer like a velvet finishing

These strains tend to produce fairly dense, though lightweight biocomposites, with acceptable growth times, and are the ones we would recommend for further investigation.
If you want to investigate a narrower taxonomic range, usually we have a range of strains within the same species, or genus. (especially for Pleurotus, Ganoderma and Lentinula)

There are other strains with interesting properties we could recommend that grow very fast, or preferentially degrade lignin over cellulose to a higher degree than other species, but they tend to come with a trade off between growth speed and the robustness of the final material.

For mother material, in a research setting, we would recommend inoculating with grain spawn. It is reliable, and can be quite simple.
The ideal grain differs between strains, and ideal bag size really depends on your set up and inoculation rate.

I want to develop a production line for mycomaterials, as a replacement of environmentally unfriendly packaging. How do I proceed?

Excellent. We need people to take this to the next level.

There are hardly any success stories yet. But don’t be disheartened: this is a very new type of industry and you can be a pioneer! We can teach you the basics of mycomaterial production. If you wish to learn more, please check our mycomaterial courses here.

I am interested in the use of mycelium for the production of mycomaterials and alternatives to leather and other textiles. Can you teach me?

Yes, we can teach you the basics. If you wish to learn about mycomaterials, please check our mycomaterial courses here.

Warning: if you are looking for a key-to-door solution to produce mycelium leather, we cannot help you. This type of technology takes many years to develop. Fair competition is essential. We would never give away such an innovative technology for free. That would be very disloyal to any company who has invested time and effort into its development.

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OTHER APPLICATIONS OF FILAMENTOUS FUNGI

Can you produce bacteria or yeasts?

Technically we can, but we don’t. We are specialised in filamentous fungi only.

Can you produce liquid fermentations?

Yes, and we have many years of experience using it. We have 6 mobile fermentation tanks of 300 liters and an unlimited amount of small containers.

We have been producing liquid inoculum since the 1990’s, but there are hardly any users in Europe. Liquid inoculum has advantages and disadvantages, just like any other recipe.

Do you produce hallucinogenic mushrooms?

No we don’t.

But we do have a collection of hallucinogenic species of which we can produce spawn upon request. Especially the last years, interest has been increasingly raised to use hallucinogenic mushrooms for therapeutic applications. We are indeed involved in research around psylocybin and its potential use in psychiatric treatments. Examples of species we have in our collection are Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe mexicana. If you are interested to know more, please contact us.

Can I buy spores to produce my own spawn?

No. Spores are not used in spawn production, except for breeding purposes to grow single spore isolates.

Spores have only disadvantages:

  • Their small size makes them difficult to handle
  • They need a long time to germinate
  • Their genetic characteristics are different from those of their parents, so they are completely unpredictable in terms of fruiting results

Our recommendation is to start with 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation inoculum of a proven strain.

Still not convinced? Then consider the following thought. Using spores to make your own spawn would be like planting a random apple seed and hoping the tree will yield great apples. What are the chances? One in a thousand? Are you willing to take that chance?