A Fungi Mutarium system is used to produce edible non-toxic mushrooms
Austrian designers Katharina Unger and Julia Kaisinger of Livin Studio partnered with Utrecht University to develop the Fungi Mutarium, a prototype terrarium that grows edible fungal biomass as a novel food product, while at the same time destroying plastic via bioremediation techniques. The idea is not completely new, as in 2012, researchers at Yale University discovered a variety of mushroom (Pestalotiopsis microspora) that is capable of breaking down polyurethane.
The fungi are cultivated on specifically designed agar shapes that the designers called "FU", made of a mix of seaweed based gelatin substitute, starch and sugar, which acts as a nutrient base for the fungi. The "FU"’s shape, inspired by mushrooms in nature, was designed to hold the plastic and offer the fungi a lot of surface to grow on.
The growing process
1) Plastic is UV treated in the "Activation Cylinder" placed on the bottom of the mutarium. (UV light sterilizes the plastic and activates its degradation process, making it easily accessible for the fungi).
2) Plain "FU" is placed in the mutarium´s Growth Sphere, using pincers to work as sterile as possible.
3) UV-sterilized plastic is put into the "FU", ready to be digested.
4) ‘Macerate’ (fungi sprouts in liquid nutrient solution) are extracted with a pipette from the Fungi Nursery and are dropped into the "FU" to ignite the growing process.
6) After a couple of weeks, the ready-grown "FU" can be taken out to be prepared and eaten.
This is surely a very interesting research, but Fungi Mutarium as a project seems somewhat speculative, as there's still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the fungi produced are totally safe for consumption. However, Unger herself has eaten them ("It's quite neutral tasting", she says), and they can also be flavored and filled with other ingredients.
Watch a short video on how researchers experimented and finally created this prototype: