The global leather industry is massive—as are its environmental impacts. More than one billion animals are slaughtered annually, and the tanning and dye processes introduce harmful chemicals into an already carbon-heavy production cycle. Yet most popular leather substitutes are plastic-based polyurethane products, which do not biodegrade and cannot be recycled.
To develop a viable alternative to cow leather, Mycotech engineers mushroom roots to mimic its feel, look, and tensile strength. Inspired by a traditional Indonesian culturing and fermentation process, Mycotech’s patented fungus creates a filament network with the characteristics of cow leather but a tiny fraction of its carbon footprint. Grown by local West Java farmers, most of whom are women, the fungi needs only one week to grow and become harvest-ready.
Given rising global demand for sustainable fashion and particularly for “vegan” alternatives to cow leather, Mycotech collaborates with small and established designers and brands to bring mushroom leather products to market.
The value of the synthetic leather market is expected to reach $45 billion by 2025. The harvest time for Mycotech raw materials is significantly shorter than that of traditional leather—60 days for mushrooms, compared to two or more years for cows. Mychotech uses only 45 liters of water and creates only 0.7 kilograms of CO2 emissions, compared to 80,000 liters of water and 355,500 kilograms CO2 for cow leather.
Mycotech currently seeks:
- Mentorship on how to increase production capacity and scale its operations;
- Marketing and branding advice to better collaborate with global brands; and
- Introductions to potential clients interested in switching to synthetic leathers.
Some of Mycotech’s notable achievements include:
- Winning the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Competition;
- Awards from UN Environment and SEED Low Carbon;
- Selection as a Royal Academy of Engineering UK Fellow (Oxford and Cambridge University); and
- Media coverage in the BBC News, Techinasia, and the Jakarta Post.
Mycotech currently partners with brands and local artisans to find new uses for its mushroom leather, such as:
- 25 small and mid-size businesses, which buy Mycotech’s products;
- Brands like Brodo Shoes, Tegep Shoes, and Pala Nusantara (watches), which use Mycotechs products, and two major footwear brands have signed letters of intent; as well as
- 270 farmers that are 64 percent women, who raise mushrooms in Indonesia.
Leather Made of Mushroom
Solver Mycotech, which makes mushroom leather to replace animal and petroleum-based products, received a $10,000 grant from Solve in 2019 for being selected as a Circular Economy Solver.