Mushrooms could address Alaska’s fish-shipping Styrofoam problem

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In Alaska, researchers at the University of Alaska-Anchorage are looking to use mushrooms as shipping insulation for the state’s fishing industry. The “bio-boards” take a little over a week to grow and dry and will begin prototype testing in the coming months.

“We’re not saying it’s going to be solving all the world’s problems,” UAA professor Philippe Amstislavski tells News & Observer. “But it’s addressing it in a way that’s thinking bigger.”

The son of biologists, Amstislavski became concerned with the large amount of Styrofoam and plastic waste he was seeing in Alaskan villages. He thought that mushrooms—which grow quickly—could be used as a biodegradable insulation.

Amstislavski’s lab collaborated with Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program to consider uses for the material, and the idea of beginning with fish shipping was born. Eventually the group received a $25,000 UAA grant as well as a Conoco-Phillips Science and Engineering Endowment to help advance the work.

Ryan Peterson, co-founder of Su Salmon Co., will be among the first to try the packaging.  “We’re hyper-conscious about the environment because we rely on it so directly,” he says.