Ecovative Supports New York Industrial Hemp

New York is taking its first steps toward regulating the growth of industrial hemp, joining 19 other states with sanctioned programs. Industrial Hemp – the plant Cannabis sativa L. with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content no greater than 0.3% – can be transformed into a myriad of products ranging from cordage to automotive parts and yes, even Mushroom® Materials.

Ecovative supports the formation of the domestic industrial hemp industry. We have tracked the progress in our region and especially within New York. In our home state we are pleased to see that steps are being taken to execute a pilot program that allows institutes of higher education to conduct research on industrial hemp. New York already approved this pilot program. The next step is to pass the permissions and restrictions surrounding that program. If proposed regulations are passed, this research can entail anything from cultivation and harvesting methods to market development.

In addition, Ecovative supports the proposed legislation to add Part 159 to 1 NYCRR, which establishes regulations for research test-plots of industrial hemp. In its current form, the authorized institutes of higher education conducting the research can engage subcontractors to help with aspects of the project. It is Ecovative’s hope that this will allow the local agricultural community to be involved with the projects and learn best practices around growing industrial hemp. In a similar manner, material processors and commercial interests including Ecovative will hopefully be able to take part in these research programs. Early and active engagement by various stakeholder groups in the development of New York’s industrial hemp industry will help to demonstrate the utility of this material and these efforts can be used a framework for other states seeking to adopt similar legislation.

As a material processor, manufacturer, and product development company based in New York, Ecovative believes it is prudent to develop all three parts of the industrial hemp industry – crop growth, material processing, and finished product development. A comprehensive approach to develop will ensure the success of this industry, reducing the risk of delays we have seen in Canada’s development of its own industry.

Ecovative would be highly interested in participating in the appropriate studies to help develop material processing and finished product markets that will utilize New York-grown industrial hemp in the future. At Ecovative we are always on the lookout for new agricultural materials that can be grown and developed in our local region to the benefit of our farmers. This program will benefit the local agricultural community by proving out how a successful and economically feasible industrial hemp crop can be grown in New York. While there won’t be any Mushroom Materials made from New York-grown industrial hemp available anytime soon (the law prohibits the sale or distribution of any of the industrial hemp grown in the test plots), we believe authorizing this pilot program is a meaningful first step.

A public hearing will be held on Wednesday, May 20th at 11am at the office of the Department of Agriculture and Markets, 10B Airline Drive, in Albany. Ecovative will attend to show its support of the proposed legislation, and is expected to give testimony. We encourage you to join us at the hearing and show support for this statute.

-Katie Malysa

Supplemental Information Below

The Path of Relevant Legislation:

The Agricultural Act of 2014 (also known as the farm bill) made it legal for states to establish research programs for industrial hemp. In December 2014 Governor Cuomo signed a hemp research bill thus creating an avenue for New York institutes of higher education to pursue test-plot studies relating to the growth of industrial hemp. At this time Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets Richard Ball is proposing legislation that would add Part 159 to 1 NYCRR and establish the regulations around the pilot program.

The Department of Agriculture and Markets drafted the proposed legislation earlier this year. Revisions were made based on feedback given at a meeting of the Industrial Hemp Work Group. The group consisted of representatives of higher education institutions that may be involved in the pilot program, Department members, and an Ecovative representative, among others.

A public hearing will take place on Wednesday, May 20th at 11am at the office of the Department of Agriculture and Markets, 10B Airline Drive, in Albany. Ecovative is expected to give testimony and show its support of the proposed legislation.

Industrial Hemp Products Information:

Featured image

Source: Johnson, Renee. Congressional Research Service Report “Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity”. 12 February 2015. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32725.pdf

GIY- Gettin’ Technical

Just as spring is in full bloom, so is our recently launched GIY program. Since the launch, we’ve been inundated with orders and many questions regarding some of the more technical aspects of our GIY Mushroom® Material. Why did we choose this amount of material to put in the GIY bag? Why do we need to use plastic bags with a filter-patch? Why do we need to add water? These are some of the questions I hope to address today in this blog post. My name is Dan, and I am one of many lucky employees at Ecovative working in the research and development department. One of my beloved projects has been working on GIY- specifically being able to dehydrate our Mushroom Material and re-grow it at a later date. Now that we’ve successfully achieved this goal, let me break down the more technical aspects for you folks growing this at home and hopefully answer some questions you may have.

Featured image

As a refresher, at Ecovative we grow material using mycelium from a mushroom, more technically known as a basidiomycete, on agricultural waste products such as corn stover. We then use thisgrown material for various industrial purposes including protective packaging and engineered wood. Mycelium is a collection of hyphae, which are the vegetative units or cells of fungus. One truly amazing physiological function of our particular fungus, as well as some other select organisms, is the ability to withstand periods of anhydrobiosis– a state of dehydration. This ability allows our fungus to temporarily suspend metabolic processes– that is to stop chemical reactions necessary to sustain life- when environmental conditions aren’t ideal, such as being under a state of extreme dryness. This exact ability is what allows us at Ecovative to offer you folks our GIY product without the overnight shipping costs, and what allows you to store it at home for up to 6 months!

Needless to say, this fungus is truly remarkable. However, as with all living organisms, certain environmental conditions must be present in order to sustain life. For instance, suspending metabolism is not an indefinite activity- this is only meant to work for short periods of time until conditions become favorable again. Additionally, just as humans need oxygen to create energy, so do fungi. This is known as cellular respiration. This brings us to our first question: why have we chosen this amount of material in each GIY bag? It’s because of the interplay between oxygen and carbon dioxide. Too much Mushroom Material in a dehydrated bag creates a scenario where the fungal cells deep in the center of the bag will not be able to access and utilize oxygen to create energy. This will result in dead fungal cells and the growth of any bacteria that may be present. Further, if there’s an excess of Mushroom Material in one bag there will be too much carbon dioxide (a by-product of cellular respiration) for life to exist- unless there’s air exchange! This brings us to our next question: why have we chosen a plastic bag with a patch as a growth chamber for our GIY program?Featured image

The bag is specifically designed to allow for passive air exchange between atmospheric gases via the filter-patch near the top of the bag. Again, the ones we’re focused on are oxygen and carbon dioxide. Without the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, the Mushroom Material would not grow and other opportunistic organisms may appear. This is also the reason we specify in our GIY instructions not to fold over the white filter-patch, as this would prevent air exchange. These growing vessels are industry standard when growing fungi for the ability to exchange air and also prevent contaminants from entering, which makes them very suitable for this product.

Another benefit is the ability to keep moisture contained in the bag. During our dehydration process we evaporate nearly all the moisture from the fungal cells – triggering the fungus to temporarily suspend metabolic activities. Once water is reintroduced back into the system at a specific volume, the fungus begins regular activities again and will undergo cellular respiration once again. We talked about carbon dioxide as one by-product of cellular respiration; another by-product is water in the form of vapor. As more and more cells undergo respiration, more water vapor is released into the bag and this starts to increase the relative humidity in the bag. You folks at home will notice this when you see tiny beads of water droplets (condensed water vapor) on the inside of the bag. This is a good sign and means the humidity is increasing, which is important for robust mycelium

Featured image

As you can see, fungi are quite complicated, just as we humans are. We both require very specific conditions in order to survive and thrive. Fortunately, our planet has laid out these exact conditions we require to live, which is why we at Ecovative are committed to working WITH the planet and not against the planet. This is also why we are offering our GIY product; we want YOU to work with the planet and get involved in any way you can. We’re extremely excited about bringing this product directly to you folks at home and can’t wait to see what you create!

Happy growing,

Dan

GIY kits are available on our webstore: shop.ecovativedesign.com

Join Ecovative and Danielle Trofe for a GIY demo in Brooklyn

Ecovative​ will team up with Danielle Trofe,​ a Brooklyn­-based designer, to demonstrate how Grow It Yourself​ Mushroom® Materials can be used to create objects and products from sustainable materials.

Mushroom® Materials are high performing, environmentally responsible alternatives to traditional plastic foams. Created by combining locally sourced agricultural byproducts and mushroom mycelium (essentially the root structure of mushrooms), these materials are grown using the power of nature. Mushroom Materials are able to achieve a variety of performance properties, making them an innovative and sustainable medium for designers and furniture makers.

   Ecovative2

Ecovative recently announced its Grow It Yourself (GIY) program, through which designers, students, innovators, and educators can purchase the raw Mushroom® Materials for a variety of applications. The program aims to empower anyone to experiment and grow products and designs using these compostable materials. GIY material will be sold on­site during the workshop at WantedDesign NYC Brooklyn.

DanielleTrofeHemis

Danielle Trofe​ will join Ecovative to show how she incorporates Mushroom® Materials into her design process to grow sustainable lamps and planters. Select products from her Mush­Lume and Mush­Bloom collections will be on display.

DanielleTrofeCascade

The workshop will provide a hands­ on experience in working with Mushroom® Materials. Instructions on how to create custom forms and tooling, as well as tips and tricks on how to grow a successful GIY project, will be demonstrated. All ages welcome.

The workshop will take place on Sunday, May 10th from 12pm­-2pm at 220 36th Street in Industry City, Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Contact: Melissa Jacobsen at media@ecovativedesign.com & Danielle Trofe at danielle@danielletrofe.com

*This post originally appeared at http://www.wanteddesignnyc.com/exhibitor/exhibitors-wd-2015/ecovative-and-danielle-trofe/

The Nutrients in Mushroom® Packaging Can Help You Grow Food

Ecovative grows its packaging on the fibers of agricultural plants. The macromolecules that compose those fibers, and the mineral nutrients that are bound to them, can be recycled in your own garden and used to grow vegetables!

To prove this, I created compost from Myco Foam packaging samples that were mixed with ordinary kitchen food scraps (no meat!), and turned ten times once a week in a compost tumbler throughout the growing season of 2013. For comparative purposes, I also created compost using fallen leaves from the sugar maple trees around my house, similarly mixed with kitchen scraps and turned in a compost tumbler.

Then, in 2014 I created soil by mixing each of the two types of compost with pure sand in a 40:60 compost-to-sand ratio. I filled three large planting pots about 10 inches in diameter with each type of soil, and I planted carrot seeds in them during late May. The carrots got a slow start because of difficulty penetrating a weed barrier that I had installed on top of each pot, but by late September I produced beautiful bright orange carrots from both the soil made with composted Myco Foam, and the soil made with composted maple leaves.

Featured image

To check on the nutritional content of the carrots, I sent them to the Nutrient Analysis Laboratory at Cornell University. The results showed that in the major mineral nutrients that humans need, carrots grown in soil made with both Myco Foam and maple leaves compared favorably to carrots typically sold in supermarkets and analyzed by USDA:

Nutrient element in carrots Myco Foam soil Maple leaf soil USDA typical carrot
Calcium % 0.39 0.69 0.29
Magnesium % 0.17 0.14 0.11
Potassium % 3.1 3.1 2.8
Phosphorus % 0.54 0.60 0.31

The carrots grown in the maple leaf soil were amazingly high in calcium! It turns out that maple trees need a lot of calcium, and they return it to the soil when their leaves fall. The plant fibers we use to grow Myco Foam packaging don’t use as much calcium as maple trees, which explains why the carrots grown in Myco Foam don’t have as much calcium as the ones grown in soil containing maple leaves. But the carrots grown from Myco Foam are still darn good when you compare them to a USDA standard carrot!

At Ecovative, we encourage people to compost our Mushroom Materials, so that the plant matter and nutrients in them can return to the soil and nourish new growth. As a result of this experiment, we now know that the compost really is good for your garden!

– Julian Hadley

How You Can Help Companies Switch to Sustainable Packaging

If everyone knows that plastic is bad for the environment, why is it still so widely used?

That’s the question that has been bugging me for as long as I can remember. Most of us are taught from a young age that these materials are horrible for the environment and our health (thank you to all the awesome teachers and parents who carry on this education!), but when we order a package online, or even buy something from the store, the product is wrapped in annoying foam pieces that flake everywhere and make you feel guilty when you have to put them in the garbage.

So what is the missing link? Why isn’t the widely known and accepted fact that these materials are harmful to the environment translating into more sustainable packaging options being used?

Based on my what I have learned while working at Ecovative, I think that it really comes down to 4 things:

Plastic works.

Plastic has been around for about 150 years. Since it first hit the market, it has revolutionized the material industry. This material is quick, cheap, and readily available. Depending on how it’s processed, it is able to achieve a huge variety of material properties that can make it sterile, food safe, expandable, flexible, firm, colorful, carvable, waterproof, etc. The possibilities are seemingly endless. Plastic is really an incredible material, and it does have useful applications, but protective packaging is not a good use of this material because it has a very short time in use and then ends up in a landfill for generations to come. Over the last 60 years or so years, companies looking to package their items have standardly used Expanded Polystyrene, Expanded Polyethylene, and Expanded Polypropylene as their go-to materials. It has kept their products safe during shipment for this long, so why switch it up now? What’s the incentive?

Natural options look “weird” or “different.”

Over time, people have become accustomed to the uniform, sterile look and feel to standard packaging products. It has a certain aesthetic that people have come to associate with the desirable, modern look. But why is this desirable? Who decided that these rigid lines, uniform colorings, squeaky textures, and glossy surfaces for protective packaging were the best look? Let’s change the standard.

Companies aren’t aware of other options.

Everyone knows about Styrofoam and plastics, but (unfortunately) not everyone knows about Ecovative’s Mushroom® Materials or other sustainable options. If companies don’t have an incentive to research alternatives, they might not know there are options out there that are not only performance and cost competitive, but that are significantly better for the environment. They likely only know what they’ve had experience with.

Plastic is cheap and fast.

Well, that’s the perception at least. These materials are derived from petroleum that took millions of years to form, and is extremely expensive to extract from the Earth. Due to the ongoing and huge government subsidies to the petroleum industry, plastic prices are able to remain low. These subsidies are intended to keep gas prices low, but they’re also contributing to our economic reliance on plastics because they remain a cheap solution. Once the polymer beads or pellets are formed and then expanded, it’s pretty fast and inexpensive to cut these formed blocks into different shapes and applications. But companies need to realize that the process (below) is extremely energy intensive, and they should be taking the environmental costs of their decisions into consideration.

So how do we get these companies to change their routine and perception?

As consumers, we need to create demand. Companies want to keep their customers happy, they want to know the latest consumer habits and behaviors. Companies are investing money and resources into studying what you want and then adjusting accordingly.

Tell companies that you want them to use sustainable packaging by writing letters, posting on their twitter or facebook, or even calling them.

Ask companies if they have a corporate sustainability mission/ goal. Having one will help drive them to look for alternatives.

Get their attention by creating or signing petitions that they should be switching to sustainable options. This petition was created by a consumer concerned about Amazon.com’s packaging choices. If you’re willing, protest that you won’t buy products from a company unless they use sustainable packaging options.

Educate companies that biomaterials work and that they don’t have to be more expensive or slower. Mushroom® Packaging is a cost and performance competitive solution, and we are able to meet or exceed the demands of our customers.

Introduce them to the alternatives. They may not have time to do research on their own. Mushroom® Packaging is a great option for custom molded shapes, but check out some of these great solutions too:

http://begreenpackaging.com/

http://www.ecologicbrands.com/

http://www.molded-pulp.com/packaging.html

http://www.greenpackaginggroup.com/product-categories/filler-cushioning

http://www.sealedair.com/recycling-paknatural-loose-fill-paknatural-cushion-bag

Tell them that you would rather have packaging that looks natural because it’s just that… natural. I think our packaging is beautiful (especially with our new surface finish), but then again… when I think about it from a consumer point of view, do I really care what the thing holding my television in place in a box looks like?? Not at all. As long as the product arrives safely, I’m happy. And if that can be achieved without poisoning the Earth at the same time, I’m ecstatic.

So get out there and start creating some buzz. We’re creating sustainable materials, but we need your help to create awareness and demand. Let’s make this positive change together.

– Melissa Jacobsen

Remembering Burt Swersey

It is with overwhelming sadness I share with you the news that our original champion and progenitor Burt Swersey passed away earlier this week. Burt was instrumental in the creation of Ecovative, which grew out of his Inventors Studio course, and was involved throughout our history to date.

Burt was the most remarkable human I have ever encountered. He combined a passion for technological innovation with the firm belief that we must apply technology to help others. Our ability to innovate should not be squandered fulfilling human wants, but instead be applied to the big problems facing people and planet.

“Don’t work on nonsense!”

Burt’s first career included starting and running 4 medical device companies, and his passion to use technology to improve human lives continued far beyond that.

Burt devoted the last 23 years to developing students. He believed that young people “could do far more than they imagined,” and that they could work on the big NEEDS facing our world. His focus on teaching creativity in the classroom, on elimination of “teams” in invention, and on focusing on NEEDS not WANTS was radically different than other approaches.

At the heart of this philosophy was a deep felt caring and belief that what the world needed was “angels’ advocates” — those that could and would believe and support even the wildest of notions. If you have ever worked with Burt, or attended one of his classes, you would see the ultimate Angels’ Advocate in action. Tireless, for hours upon hours, Burt would encourage each student with compassion and sincerity. He would “Plus” their ideas, and teach others around them to do so collaboratively.

Burt had been working overtime the last two years to try and move Rensselaer and other schools to this model. It remains a tremendously important goal for our educational system, and by extension, our planet.

Incessant insistence balanced Burt’s extremely positive demeanor. After making a space, carefully crafted out of compassion and caring, where one could create something great, free of the fear of failure or critism, Burt would switch gears once such an idea was formed.

As strands of inspiration coalesced to concept he would suddenly exclaim “MORE!”. He would demand that you make it “bigger” or “smaller” (often in short succession). His goal now was to make sure the solution you were working towards was the greatest that it could be, and most importantly, that it was fulfilling a true global need.

By switching between these modes Burt would help others understand that they could do things far beyond their wildest dreams.

Early on in Ecovative’s history Gavin and I would make weekly status reports to Burt. We used to joke that if we presented to Burt we had “cured cancer that week” he would demand to know “why we had forgotten about Alzheimer’s.” By that same token when we presented to him our deepest failures, a commercial disaster or a botched experiment, he would react with enthusiasm for our efforts and convey to us his deepest held belief that “you can do it– no you WILL DO IT”.

These two tendencies made working with Burt one of the most trying experiences of my life. It also was perhaps the most rewarding. I know many others experienced this over the years. Burt was not just content to educate, he wanted to transform his students into a force for good.

And on that note I will leave you with a final thought Burt recorded last year, after winning the NCIIA’s Sustainable Impact Award:

“Make change happen that will have significant benefits for a billion people… what a nice thing to do in your life. Whatcha do in your life? Well, I made life better for a billion people.” – Burt Swersey

Burt was referring not to himself, but the students who he envisioned changing the world for better.

A trim-tab is a tiny part of the rudder on large ships, it moves the rudder, and that moves the ship. A small force applied at the trim-tab can move a tremendous mass. A tremendous force applied in such a way can move the world.

Buckminster Fuller once said “Call me Trim-tab”. He envisioned himself a force to move our society and planet. What a wild idea.

Burt had an even wilder idea. An idea that only Burt could imagine. He didn’t want to be the Trim-tab, not enough would get done. He wanted to create Trim-tabs. Hundreds of them. That would purposefully innovative and create, and in doing so, improve the lives of billions upon billions of people.

By taking this very Burt approach he fulfills the promise he articulates for the student above.

“Watcha do in your life?”

Burt: you created ripples of humans working to make life better for a billion people.

– Eben Bayer

The Adaptability of Ecovators

When I started at Ecovative back in 2011, we occupied a small warehouse space and were still in the early “start-up” phase of production. Over time, we moved from our tiny place to a factory twice the size across the street. Even that proved unable to hold us back in our growth and we took over another section of the warehouse strip. It was easy enough, just smash a hole in the wall and annex the space beyond. Like the mycelium that makes our product, we too grow out into our environment, soon reaching across the river to our newest space in Troy, NY (incidentally that is where my parents were born and raised, so my excitement is twofold). With all this growth of course comes change, resolution to old problems, and of course the creation of new ones. Through all this, though, one thing is clear: Ecovators can adapt.

Two weeks ago, while enjoying lunchtime with about a dozen co-workers I heard Max exclaim, “I’m done with the fork. Who needs it?” I looked around and saw that aside from Max with his spaghetti, the only lunch with need for a fork was Melissa’s salad, and she promptly snatched it up. Everyone else in the room was either eating bowls of soup with tablespoons, or mac n cheese with iced tea spoons, while many others went the simpler route and had brought hand held sandwiches or G0-Gurts for their mid-day meal.

You see, like evolution, the loss of forks in the lunchroom was slow and seemingly inexorable. It wasn’t until there was just one left that we really noticed that they had been disappearing. Since the flow of time through Ecovative’s history followed a similar trend, we were conditioned to the change. We adapted to what had been thrown our way, planning ahead and sharing, communicating needs and working as a team, even in lunchtime. We had switched to a spoon-friendly society without detriment to ourselves. In fact, it was a little bit fun.

Fortunately, forks in general have not gone the way of the Dodo, and in noticing that one of the species was left, we did not panic. We simply placed an Amazon order and had several more dozen delivered. Slowly now, perhaps a little sheepishly, we bring our noodles, our spinach, and our coleslaw out of the Featured imagerefrigerator, melding once more into a peaceful society of multitudinous flatware. And, like our kitchen adventures, Ecovative itself moves through time, adapting, reconfiguring, and in some ways, going back to the way it was.

May the forks be with you.

– Meghan Dolan