MycoWorks, making leather from fungi, closes $125M to scale production – TechCrunch

MycoWorks, a company that makes a fungicide-based biomaterial that can replace the skin, has brought in a new round of funding — $125 million in Series C funding — to fund a production plant to expand manufacturing of its flagship Reishi product.

What his company does in terms of fabrics differs from its competitors, CEO Matt Scullen says, referring to Fine Mycelium’s process as a “biotech platform that engineered fungi to grow the only luxury material made to order and made to specification.”

“There is a lot going on in this space,” he added. “Mycelium is a tunable material, and a lot of people are getting into space because they see an opportunity for it. However, their main approach is to take the fibers and incorporate them into the plastic, which results in a lower quality material like ‘dull.’”

In fact, the California-based company, founded by Philip Ross and Sophia Wang in 2013, is among the hot trends for companies working with fungi and other plant materials to make fashion fabrics. When we previously profiled MycoWorks in 2020 for a $45 million raise, we pointed out companies like Bolt Thread (mushrooms), Ananas Anam (pineapple fiber) and Desserto (aloe leather) doing similar things.

In addition to using plant-based materials for costumes, other companies are having success using technology based on fungi. Nature’s Fynd, which raised $350 million in a Series C round in 2021, created Fy, a plant protein that can be used as a solid, liquid or powder to make sustainable foods, such as meat and cheese. Atlast Food does something similar, making meat substitutes from gourmet mushrooms. Meanwhile, MycoTechnology, which uses a fermentation process to make—among other things—mushroom extract that prevents unwanted flavors from other foods, closed in a Series D round with more than $120 million in 2020.

Meanwhile, he led Prime Movers Lab, Series C, with the participation of new investors, notably SK Capital Partners, and the Mirabaud Lifestyle Impact and Innovation Fund, which joined a group of other existing and new investors. To date, the company has raised $187 million in total.

MycoWorks launched its first partnership with Hermès in early 2021 and now has contracts with a range of international luxury brands. Scullyn told me that if it was a luxury brand I’d heard of, the company would probably be partnering with it.

Despite its initial business in the luxury space, MycoWorks also aims to move toward mass production that will enable products at a range of price points. Scullen said the funding will enable the company to do just that.

MycoWorks Mushroom Blue Rack Trays. Image credits: Lindsey Velowitz

The company’s new production plant will be built in Union, SC and follows a successful pilot plant in Emeryville, California. This is where MycoWorks was able to validate the tray-based process and demonstrate the scalability of the Fine Mycelium process when it achieved a production milestone of 10,000 process trays. Scullen expects the plant to be up and running within the next 12 months and will initially be able to produce quantities of up to several million square feet of Fine Mycelium annually.

To meet consumer-driven demand for sustainable goods, Scullin also plans to invest funding in team expansion, research and development, and technology development. The company has received thousands of requests from brands to be selected as the first to use Fine Mycelium.

He estimates that $150 billion in leather products are sold each year, which means the opportunity is huge, especially since the consumer tailwind remains “one of the strong forces in the economy right now,” he added.

When choosing Prime Movers Lab and others to invest in the round, Scullin said they all have combined expertise in biotechnology and manufacturing scaling, which is what the company needs right now.

“What MycoWorks has achieved through the Fine Mycelium platform is not just a breakthrough, it is a revolution for industries ripe for change,” David Semenov, general partner at Prime Movers Lab, said in a written statement. “This opportunity is enormous and we believe that unmatched product quality combined with their scalable manufacturing process make MycoWorks the backbone of the new materials revolution.”

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