MycoWorks, a company developing a fungal-based biomaterial that it said could replace leather, began production at its new manufacturing plant in Union, SC.

The San Francisco-based company said it can “now grow millions of square feet” of its leather-alternative material produced with MycoWorks proprietary technology, Fine Mycelium, which makes Reishi, a biomaterial with a “hand-feel, strength and durability on par with calfskin leather.” The company said Fine Mycelium is being used for luxury handbags, footwear, vehicle interiors, and home furnishings.

With partners including Hermès and General Motors, MycoWorks said its progression into commercial-scale manufacturing notes a maturation for the biomaterials industry. 

Per MycoWorks’ market sizing, serious challenges face the $164 billion leather and $28 billion luxury leather markets, including supply chain constraints and inferior product alternatives. MycroWorks data notes that from “2010, demand for luxury leather increased 251 percent, while high-end hide production declined by 22 percent due to falling beef and dairy consumption.”

The opening of MycoWorks 136,000-square-foot factory also marks the world’s largest mycelium material (the “root structure of mushrooms”) operation.  

The plant received support from a $125 million Series C funding round in 2021 from Prime Movers Lab, SK Networks, Mirabaud Lifestyle Impact & Innovation Fund, DCVC Bio, Novo Holdings, strategic customers, and investors.

“As MycoWorks continues to lead in biomaterial innovation, we are thrilled to open this first-of-its-kind facility in South Carolina. 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,” said Doug Hardesty, MycoWorks chief operating officer. “We thank the city and citizens of Union for welcoming MycoWorks into its community.”

MycoWorks’ investment is reshoring production from an industry that primarily sources from Europe. Union, SC, has had a long history in textile manufacturing, and as the region is already home to auto manufacturers, the company noted that the plant will “allow other industries in the area and globally to collaborate closely on development.”

“We are thrilled to welcome MycoWorks to Union and have been eagerly awaiting the start of production,” said Governor Henry McMaster. “We are already seeing the growth that this opening is bringing to the immediate and greater communities in the area, including more jobs, housing, storefronts, and overall investments. MycoWorks is a fantastic addition to our portfolio of energy-efficient plants, and we look forward to their long-term impact in South Carolina.”

Photo courtesy MycoWorks