Science and industry will come together in Amsterdam in 2016 for the four-yearly conference of the ISMS (International Society for Mushroom Science) on fungi which produce edible mushrooms. How can growers and the industry use the results of global research into these organisms? “In more ways than you would initially expect,” says co-organiser Anton Sonnenberg of Wageningen UR.
A combination of characteristics make fungi and mushrooms very interesting, according to scientist Anton Sonnenberg of Wageningen UR. “Edible mushrooms contain few calories and lots of very valuable vitamins and minerals. Many people enjoy the flavour as well, making them a popular addition to our meals. It is less well-known that fungi and mushrooms have more applications than in the food chain alone. During the ISMS conference we also look at other markets such as pharmaceuticals and construction.”
Packaging and building materials from fungi
An American company is already producing fully compostable packaging based on fungi that also produce edible mushrooms, for instance, and the Far East has long since embraced the mushroom as a medicinal substance which stimulates the immune system, among other things. Meanwhile, architects are experimenting with fungi as a resource for biobased building materials. “We need alternative resources for products that are now being produced with petroleum. Fungi could be a very interesting option.”
Fungi in the biobased economy
An interesting detail, according to Sonnenberg, is that fungi are the reason why the supply of oil and gas is finite. “Fungi started completely breaking down plant remains some 300 million years ago. As a result, the supply of fossil fuel has only been supplemented up to a certain extent since then. This is a characteristic which could be very useful now, as these fungi are the only organisms that can break down the lignin substance in plant cell walls, which is very difficult to do. This makes fungi very practical in making residual flows from agriculture and wood production applicable for the biobased economy. In Wageningen we are already using fungi to remove lignin from biomass. The remaining cellulose can then be used as a raw material for products such as animal feed. By using the residual flows, less agricultural land will be required to produce animal feed in the long term. Some 40 per cent of all land is currently being used for this purpose.”
ISMS2016 from 29 May to 2 June 2016
Sonnenberg expects a varied group of interested people to attend the conference of the ISMS (International Society for Mushroom Science) from 29 May to 2 June 2016. “It is stimulating for growers and breeders, as well as for producers of materials, food products, and pharmaceuticals. I recommend everyone who wants to learn more about the applications and market opportunities to join us in Amsterdam next year.”