MycoWorks to take leather-alternative commercial with new plant

Biotechnology company MycoWorks is preparing to commercialise its leather-alternative Reishi with the opening of a 136,000 square foot factory in South Carolina, US.

The major step has been made possible through partners such as Hermès and General Motors, as well as a 125 million dollar Series C funding round secured in 2021, and led by Prime Motors Lab, SK Networks and Mirabaud Lifestyle Impact & Innovation Fund, among others.

Starting first with leather, MycoWorks’ proprietary technology, Fine Mycelium, will produce the Reishi biomaterial before expanding into other applications, with the Union-based facility utilising art robotics, AI resources and digital analytics to power its supply chain systems.

Such technologies also allow Fine Mycelium to be customised for thickness, weight and mechanical properties, a press release noted, allowing for an “unprecedented level of control” over the natural material.

The opening of the manufacturing plant will cater to the growing need for leather alternatives, accelerated by supply chain constraints in the standard and luxury leather market despite demand for the material increasing by 251 percent, as per MycoWorks’ reported figures.

The company said that Reishi hopes to be an answer to these challenges, with what it claimed was “the world’s first full-scale alternative leather factory” designed to commercialise the material for the luxury industry.

Speaking on its opening, Doug Hardesty, MycoWorks’ COO, said: “This reality 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.”