There has been increased biotech attempts to replace leather from cattle with a more sustainable biotech alternative. Consumers are always attracted and addicted to the luxurious feel and durability of leather. Most of them do not know that cows are costly to feed and hide tanning is toxic. Modern Meadow Company has attempted to grow leather directly from skin cells.
Phil Ross is the founder of Mycoworks. His team has done a fantastic job by growing leather from mycelium, the dense root structure in mushrooms. Ross said that mycelium is the skin of the mushrooms. Ross and his team grow mycelia under varying conditions of humidity and temperature. He then tans the resulting fungal mat into leather that looks and feels similar to cow skin. Ross stated that leather from mycelium has a smaller impact on environmental footprint and needs less energy than cow leather. Moreover, the leather is also biodegradable.
Ross stated that an advantage of leather from mushrooms is that it has the plasticity that is not present in animal hide. Ross continued by saying that his work is more appreciated in the business world than in the art world. At the Indie Bio accelerator in San Francisco in July, the Chief Executive Officer of Mycoworks pulled out a six-foot leather hide on stage. Sophia Wong could barely hold it over his head. Ross and Wong are likely to start a company in the future. Wong has a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California.