Grade 5 welcomed a special guest speaker over Zoom recently in preparation for their spring STEAM Fair: Qing Qing, Director of Sustainability for MyForest Foods, a partner company of Ecovative.
Ecovative is a materials production company that uses cutting-edge technology involving mushrooms. Yes, mushrooms! And more specifically: mycelium, the woven “root” structure of fungi. Mycelium is a unique biological system of cells called hyphae that are incredibly strong and durable. It is water- and pressure-resistant, and can be manipulated into a variety of growth patterns and states to create food, faux leather, and beauty products.
Qing Qing spoke to the class about how Ecovative’s AirMycelium is used to make entirely plant-based bacon. MyBacon saw commercial success after its launch in 2020 with continued demand. As Qing Qing explained, the use of mycelium in items like food is packed with both ecological and health benefits. According to the United Nations, close to 1 in 3 people lack regular access to food. Unlike meat sourced from livestock, which can take upwards of one year to harvest, the mycelium used in MyBacon can be grown and harvested in just nine days, making it more readily available than other food sources. It produces far less greenhouse gas emissions, can be eaten by everyone, and is developed in a humane environment.
Mycelium will be the star of the Grade 5 STEAM fair come spring, during which students explore UN Sustainability Goal 2 (achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture). The class eagerly listened to Qing Qing speak about the existing benefits of mycelium, as well as its future potential. As Ecovative and MyForest have shown, mycelium can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions created by large-scale factory farming. Students will be challenged to come up with their own sustainable alternatives, working with “clients” to solve problems faced in the food and agriculture industry.