Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre were fascinated by mushrooms growing on wood chips, and observing how the fungal mycelium strongly bonded the wood chips together. This inspired them to think of new ways of using mycelium as a resin. In a class at Rensselaer, called Inventor’s Studio, they formulated a new process for binding together insulating particles, creating some remarkable materials that could replace Styrofoam™. Rather than just decreasing the environmental impact of conventional polystyrene foams, this invention created a whole new paradigm where composite materials are literally grown, harnessing the incredible efficiency of nature. Upon graduating, Eben and Gavin were strongly encouraged by their faculty mentor, Burt Swersey to take a big risk, forgoing “real” jobs to found Ecovative. Within weeks, mycologist Sue Van Hook at nearby Skidmore College read about their mushroom insulation in the local paper and found them. She provided the expertise needed in growing fungi. Eben and Gavin set up their first lab in the Rensselaer Business Incubator in 2007.
Shortly after founding the company, they won small grants from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA). This funding was used to create initial samples of the material. This proof of concept enabled the company to win bigger grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to further develop the products. In 2008, Ecovative was awarded 1st place in the Picnic Green Challenge, the worlds largest prize for a solution to climate change. Since then, Ecovative has won many more awards and grants that have enabled the company to continue to grow and accelerate toward production of these revolutionary eco-friendly materials.
Production System Development and Launch
In 2009, Ecovative moved out of the Rensselaer Business Incubator, and into a 10,000 square foot office and warehouse in Green Island, New York. Ecovative’s rapidly growing team worked tirelessly to create a one-of-a-kind bio-materials production system prototype. In 2010, Ecovative launched Mushroom® Packaging, creating protective packaging for Steelcase, Inc to help them eliminate plastic foam. Since the first offering as “EcoCradle Mushroom Packaging”, Ecovative has supplied packaging solutions to a growing number of Fortune 500 companies. In early 2012, Ecovative began a partnership with Sealed Air to license Restore™ Mushroom Packaging.
Today Ecovative has grown to 55 full time employees, and we’ve built a showcase production facility next to our original facility in Green Island. The price of oil is already at a point where these materials are cost competitive compared to most synthetics. Our society is exceeding what our planet can handle in terms of waste and pollution. It’s going to take radical solutions, like mushroom materials, to figure out a way to live sustainably on planet Earth.
The Future is Now
We’re racing to increase production of these revolutionary materials. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest spanning many industries. People across the world want to eliminate environmentally damaging plastics and synthetics. What planetary problems can we solve for you?