Toadstool footstools: Are organisms manufacturing's future?

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GREEN ISLAND, NY - An upstate New York factory makes furniture with fungus.

The sturdy boards and spongy cushions at Ecovative Design are made with mycelium, the thread-like "roots" of mushrooms. Packed in bags with bits of stalks and stems, the mycelium grows around the small pieces. The bound-together material can be molded into soft packaging for glassware or pressed into the boards used for the footstools the company recently began selling.

The simple stools are organic markers in ambitious efforts by researchers worldwide to commercially grow fungi, bacteria and proteins into the likes of clothes and building materials.

Proponents see micro-organisms as factories of the future, displacing energy-intensive manufacturing with more sustainable models. Companies are working on making bricks without kilns, leather without cows and silk without spiders.

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