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MycoWorks' alternative leather material. Image credit: MycoWorks

Brief: GM’s deal with MycoWorks brings alt-leather a step closer to mass production

October 24, 2022

Disclosure: AFN’s parent company, AgFunder, is an investor in MycoWorks.

  • Automaker General Motors’ has become an investor in alt-leather startup MycoWorks through its GM Ventures investment arm. 
  • The two companies also have a long-term agreement to co-develop materials that could be used inside cars and other vehicles using MycoWorks’ Fine Mycelium material.
  • This is MycoWorks’ first partnership for its leather alternative material outside of the fashion industry.

Why it matters:

GM’s investment could provide a huge boost to both MycoWorks’ business and the alt-leather industry in general. The company is the largest automaker in the US and second largest in the world after Toyota. The millions of cars per year GM produces would offer an enormous range of uses for MycoWorks’ bio-materials. 

MycoWorks’ Fine Mycelium engineers the root structure of mushrooms, called mycelium, to create a leather-like material. The company says its material matches animal-based leather’s performance while having a lower environmental footprint.

Up to now, MycoWorks has worked mostly in the realm of luxury fashion, including a travel bag made from the material for Hermès and these summer hats.

The startup raised $125 million in Series C funding this year, a sum that allowed it to start development on its first full-scale production facility. MycoWorks says the plant will be able to produce several million square feet of Fine Mycelium materials per year.

A bigger facility means more capacity to manufacture beyond hats and bags. The GM partnership is the first step towards this goal of mass production. 

GM says the partnership aligns with its goal of producing cleaner vehicles and reaching net zero emissions by 2040. By 2035, the company plans to make only electric vehicles. 

“Our strategic investment in MycoWorks aims to advance the development of sustainable automotive materials,” Wade Sheffer, managing director of GM Ventures, said in a statement. “This collaboration will help facilitate R&D efforts and build more sustainable alternatives for our designers.”

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