Collaboration with Biology Prof. Han Wösten
Prestigious BraunPrize for converting plastic into food
The concept ‘Fungi Mutarium’ developed by Julia Kaisinger and Katharina Unger at the LIVIN Studio in Austria, in collaboration with Utrecht University biology Professor Han Wösten, has won the BraunPrize 2015 Sustainability Award. The concept shows how toxic waste products, such as plastics, can be converted into food by mushroom-forming fungi. Fungi Mutarium was chosen as the winner from more than 2,500 submissions from 67 countries. BraunPrizes have been awarded since 1968, and have a prestigious reputation.
The jury praised Fungi Mutarium as a ‘visionary and challenging’ project that addresses two crucial social issues: the dramatic increase in demand for food for a growing - and increasingly prosperous - world population, and the huge flows of waste, including 280 million kilogrammes of plastic each year. The use of an existing resource - fungi - also appealed to the jury. The project earned appreciated due to the close collaboration between the designers and the scientists within the project.
Toxic waste – healthy food
Fungi Mutarium is the name of the installation that the researchers developed to convert plastic waste into food. A glass dome is filled with egg-shaped cups made of agar, an adhesive in the cell walls of red seaweed that is a fertile base for microbes. The cups are filled with sterilised plastic and inoculated with a fungus, such as the oyster mushroom. The fungus breaks down the toxic waste, creating a healthy food product.
Even greater potential
The conversion of plastic into edible fungi is still a very slow process, so the researchers are diligently experimenting to refine and accelerate the process. “If that works, our concept will be an excellent solution for the enormous piles of waste plastic. Plus, fungi can also convert other types of waste, such as toxic dioxin. So the potential is even greater”, according to Han Wösten, Professor of Microbiology at Utrecht University.
Fungi Mutarium not only presents a new manner of food production, but also introduces a ‘dining ceremony’ that includes production at home, new eating utensils and recipes. The concept was developed as the winning submission for the BioArtDesign Award 2014. This award is presented to teams consisting of scientists and designers, and is sponsored in part by ZonMW.
Exhibition in Stockholm
Fungi Mutarium was also featured at the exhibition ‘Matter of Life’ in Eindhoven, which presented nine innovative projects at the juncture of biology, art and design. At the moment, the project is part of the exhibition ‘Hemma i framtiden’ (At Home in the Future) at the National Museum in Stockholm. In early April, the exhibit will move to the University Museum in Utrecht.
- More information about Fungi Mutarium and LIVIN Studio.
- Watch the video The fungus that could replace plastic, featuring prof. Han Wösten.
- Images: LIVIN Studio
Future Food Utrecht
This research falls under Utrecht University’s interdisciplinary research theme Future Food Utrecht. In this programme, we work to find solutions for a sustainable, healthy, acceptable and accessible food supply for the global population. To this end, we focus on solutions based on an understanding of the fundamental mechanisms and on integrating the insights and ideas from all food-related fields of study. Future Food Utrecht combines the efforts of biologists, pharmaceutical researchers, social scientists, urban geographers, medical and veterinary researchers, ethicists and economists. More information: Future Food Utrecht.
Monica van der Garde, Press Spokesperson, Faculty of Science, firstname.lastname@example.org, 06 13 66 14 38.