Mushroom market: foraging for a better future

More than just a meal, mushrooms have medicinal properties that carry great scope for exploration. William Padilla-Brown, an expert on the topic, tells us what's next for the fungi movement.
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Coffee, biodegradable packaging, depression treatment, protein powders, adaptogenic honey, skincare, beer, leather... Is there anything the humble fungi can't lend itself to? We spoke with William Padilla-Brown, an author and mycologist (that's a mushroom expert, by the way) – who runs MycoSymbiotics, a mushroom research company in Pennsylvania – to get his take.

Why now for the 'shroom?

A. ‘Paul Stamets' TED Talk [Six ways mushrooms can save the world] just came in at the right time, showing all the different applications of mushrooms beyond food. A lot of people are looking for something novel and exotic. Something like this is just so appealing, in that mystical world that we've been numbed out of. Mushrooms represent some sort of nuance, some sort of reconnection to nature.’

What's your take on the explosion of brands?

A. ‘There are so many companies just ready to capitalize on whatever is trending. It's now so easy for people to buy bulk mushroom extract powders, send it to a manufacturer and mix it into whatever formulas, and they have a mushroom brand. With no idea what they're doing or selling.’

What do you want to see in the space?

A. ‘I want to see something different – I can go anywhere now and get a mushroom tincture or capsule from 100 different people. There are some companies that are starting to use cannabinoid infusions or fusions of mixed plant medicine on a compound level, which I think is really interesting. ‘I want to see more synergistic blends. I want to see more seasonal and regional products that key in on all the native adaptogenic herbs, plants, mushrooms and algae. The innovation that I'm looking for is going to come in a decentralized market – not from a centralized international market. Any mushroom business that I'd want to start wouldn't be focused on selling outside of where I'm at.’

This article was first published in 100 Ways to Make a Living 2021. To become a subscriber or purchase our newest guide, head to our webshop.

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