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A plant-based leather producer just secured 60 million dollars in funding

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

31 Mar 2021

The next leather jacket you buy could soon be made from mushrooms.

Leather alternatives, particularly plant-based, have largely been the subject of laboratory studies rather than large-scale producers of apparel. This may now change, as mycelium technology company, Ecovative, secured 60 million dollars in a funding round to grow materials, better and faster. In other words, at scale.

The round, which brings Ecovative’s total capital raised to 100m dollars, will set the company on track to grow custom solutions for industry-leading brands seeking to increase their sustainable profile across verticals and geographies.

Scaling sustainable leather and animal alternatives

Ecovative is building on more than a decade of experience producing mycelium materials for partners throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The company said the funding will power its next-generation Mycelium Foundry and support another 10x boost in production.

Mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, has a unique biology that can be leveraged to grow materials that self-assemble into complex, fully-formed structures. Utilizing proprietary bioreactors and workflows, Ecovative produces high-performance, low-environmental impact products for the textile, food and packaging industries. “Mycelium is a unique material that outperforms other sustainable alternatives in industries as diverse as fashion and food,” said Evan Lodes, Partner at Senator Investment Group and Ecovative board member. “Ecovative pioneered the field of mycelium materials, and has invested in the research and development necessary to deliver it at the scale and cost required to make a significant impact.”

“The demand for new biomaterials in the fashion industry, such as mycelium, far outstrips the current supply. Ecovative is tackling this challenge head-on, committing to building a next-generation platform capable of producing mycelium at scale,” said Katrin Ley, Managing Director of Fashion For Good.

Across industries, brands are exploring the use of biomaterials to improve their sustainability profiles, but finding high-performance materials that can be produced at industrial scale remains a challenge. Ecovative developed its AirMycelium manufacturing platform to produce mycelium at industrial scale, and recently activated 100,000 pounds per year of new manufacturing capacity to support growing demand from partners, ranging from packaging suppliers to tanneries, for custom mycelium solutions.

“Ecovative’s deep experience in mushrooms has enabled a high throughput discovery platform that is yielding solutions that are scaling through new biomanufacturing technology,” said Shally Shanker, Founder and Managing Partner of AiiM Partners. “This will play a key role in solving (or accelerating solutions to) substantive problems like climate emissions and toxic material waste.”

“Today’s investment in our next-generation Mycelium Foundry will produce immediate results for our business and the planet,” said Eben Bayer, CEO and Co-Founder of Ecovative. “We have a track record of scaling and shipping mycelium-based products. This growth will accelerate our deployment of these important solutions at greater scale and across more industries.”

Image: courtesy Ecovative