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MycoWorks opens first commercial plant in South Carolina

Brand partners will now move collection design from prototyping and capsules to full-scale adoption.

26th September 2023

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Union, SC, USA

Transport/​Aerospace

Biotechnology company MycoWorks has started production at its first industrial-scale plant in Union, South Carolina, and is now scaling-up to meet luxury industry demand by growing millions of square metres of its leather-alternative material produced with the company’s proprietary technology, Fine Mycelium.

The patented technology produces Reishi, a biomaterial with unparalleled hand-feel, strength and durability on par with calfskin leather, the industry gold standard.

With partners including Hermès and General Motors, the progression of MycoWorks into commercial-scale manufacturing is a sign of maturation for the biomaterials industry.

There are serious challenges facing the $164 billion leather market and $28 billion luxury leather market such as supply chain constraints and inferior product alternatives. Since 2010, demand for luxury leather has increased by 251%, while high-end hide production declined has by 22 percent due to falling beef and dairy consumption.

MycoWorks is meeting these challenges with mycelium– the “root structure” of mushrooms – as its raw material.

The new plant was made possible through a $125 million Series C funding round in 2021. With construction beginning in 2022, the project was delivered on-time and on-budget, running the same tray-based mycelium growth system successfully piloted at its California plant yet scaled to 100 times the volume.

“As MycoWorks continues to lead in biomaterial innovation, we are thrilled to open this first-of-its-kind facility in South Carolina,” said Doug Hardesty, MycoWorks COO. “This is thanks to our team of experienced manufacturing leaders and engineers from the consumer goods, automotive, food, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries who have adapted robotic equipment and systems to handle our unique tray-based biomaterials process. In turn, they have enabled the first high-quality mycelium material product at scale – a feat which has never been accomplished until now.”

The plant uses robotics, digital analytics and AI resources to achieve high-calibre quality and supply chain systems for the company’s customers in an entirely new manufacturing process. Using automated guided robots (AGRs), the company has automated 80% of its process, enabling it to reduce handling costs but maintain expert interactions where they are critical for quality assurance, achieving both high quality and low-cost production.

The plant also represents a a breakthrough in supply chain management, providing full predictability, transparency and provenance of materials while reducing waste. Grown-to-spec, Fine Mycelium materials can be customised for thickness, weight and mechanical properties, allowing for an unprecedented level of control of a natural material, previously impossible via traditional agriculture.

Luxury fashion and automotive brands have awaited this opening to move collection design from prototyping and capsules to full-scale adoption. To date, Fine Mycelium has already been applied with great success to product categories from luxury handbags and footwear to vehicle interiors and home furnishings.

For Union, with a population 30,00 people, the investment is reshoring production to the USA from an industry that primarily sources from Europe. Union has had a long history in textile manufacturing, and as the region is already home to leading automotive manufacturers, Fine Mycelium will allow other industries in the area and globally to closely collaborate on development. This centralisation of biotechnology and manufacturing has long been a goal of South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, a dedicated supporter of bringing cutting-edge science and technology to the state.

“We are thrilled to welcome MycoWorks to Union and have been eagerly awaiting the start of production,” he said. “We are already seeing the growth that this opening is bringing to the immediate and greater communities in the area, including more jobs, housing, storefronts and overall investments. MycoWorks is a fantastic addition to our portfolio of energy-efficient plants, and we look forward to its long-term impact in South Carolina.”

www.mycoworks.com

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