Futuristic Fungus Could Become an Alternative to Leather Hides

Imagine a future when your wallet, football, and couch are made from a "leather" that is neither synthetic or an animal hide.

Science Friday recently interviewed Phillip Ross, chief technology officer of "Mycoworks," a San Francisco based startup company that is producing leather alternatives from mushrooms. In particular, they're using Ganoderma Lucidum, more commonly known as the "reishi" mushroom. The reishi mushroom has been applied in ancient eastern medicine, but Ross has more recently found it useful for properties that make it behave similarly to rawhide.

In terms of efficiency, the reishi mushroom can produce the same amount of material that a two-year-old cow would produce in a matter of only two weeks. The mushrooms are grown on organic matter from agricultural waste, and require far less resources to produce than cattle.

Check out this video to see the futuristic fungus in action:

By manipulating the mushrooms growing environment, Ross can control the production of the mushroom to form-fit for use in creating the alternative leather material. Altering the light, temperature, and humidity levels allow for the potential to control patterns and colors, while he can also grow the material around things like fasteners.

Beyond wallets and gun holsters, there's a wealth of possibility to be explored with this method of producing materials. Building materials, furniture, the potential is infinite.

"My hope is that this will become a globalized industry. That well beyond my lifetime, or even what Mycoworks is setting up, that this will just become a standard way that human beings are going to figure out as a way to provide for themselves," says Ross.