Katy Ayers, a student hailing from Nebraska, has done something incredible: she grew a canoe out of mycelium. Her mushroom canoe went viral recently, and for good reason. It’s never been done before, until now.
Calling it Myconoe, as a nod to the Reishi mushroom mycelium that it’s made of, Katy’s eight-foot long canoe was grown over the course of this past summer. Perhaps even more amazing is that not only does it float, but it STILL floats!
Most people don’t know that the mushrooms you see popping out from the ground are not the entire mushroom. In fact, they are just the fruits of fungi. Underneath the soil, there are vast networks of mycelium that look like white roots and dense fibrous masses. It’s the mycelium that was used in making the Myconoe. Katy patiently waited as the mycelium grew, before harvesting it to make her canoe.
Being just 28, Ayers, who studies at Central Community College in Columbus, Nebrasks set out to grow her canoe to make a statement about the health of the environment. When it comes to mushrooms, Katy believes that, “they are our biggest ally for helping the environment.” Katy is part of a movement comprised of passionate people, young and old, advocating for the wide benefits of mushrooms. Everything from Lion’s Mane to Psilocybin has incredible benefits that are only now beginning to be better understood by science. People like Ayers believe that fungi can play a key role in resolving some of the biggest challenges facing the environment.
Katy is quick to share how effective fungi can be in breaking down toxic chemicals. She also points out the household and industrial uses of mushrooms. Everything from making furniture out of mushrooms to insulation for your home to being used for packaging. With plastics and Styrofoam being major causes of environmental pollution, mycelium provides a safer and natural alternative. “Mushrooms are here to help us — they’re a gift,” she says.
With companies like Ecovative Design leading the way in mushroom materials, there is headway being made towards a future where at least some toxic materials can be replaced with natural alternatives like mycelium.
One of the most surprising properties of mushrooms is their ability to clean contaminated soil. The process even has a name: mycoremediation. While small-scale experiments have yielded great results, it has yet to be practiced on a larger scale.
Katy’s love affair with mushrooms began in 2013, after she saw the documentary Super Fungi. This film explained how fungi can be great allies in helping the environment, thanks to their unique use-cases.
Ayers was instantly on board. She was amazed at how mycelium is both waterproof and buoyant. Putting 2 and 2 together, she decided to grow a mushroom boat. She always wanted a boat, so she figured why not just grow it?
The boat first started off as a wooden skeleton, to allow for the mycelium to tether to something. With the canoe suspended in a room where the mycelium grew, it took just two weeks for the mushroom boat to become fully grown. The environment had to be just right for everything to go off without a hitch. The temperature had to stay within the 80-90 F degree range, while the humidity stays at 90%-100%. The final step was drying it outside in the sun.
How much did the Myconoe cost to grow? Katy says she only paid $500 for everything she needed. She has not only taken it out onto a lake three times, she even had another passenger with her during one test float. What’s also amazing is that it’s a living boat. That’s right, there are actual mushroom fruits that grow on the boat after each time she goes out on a lake with it!
Now that Ayers has seen how well mycelium holds up when it’s a boat, she’s moved onto growing chairs, bricks, and more. With so many potential uses for mycelium, Ayers hopes she can make a massive positive impact on the environment in the month and years going forward.