Innovation Exchange challenge: Environmental monitoring and data analytics for mycelium growth optimisation

The Magical Mushroom Company are looking for software analytics or sensor solutions to measure growth completion for their products.

Funding Details
When

Registration Opens

05/12/2022

Registration Closes

13/01/2023

Award

Shortlisted applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch their solution to Magical Mushroom Company. The final successful applicant will deliver a proof-of-concept trial. The project team will receive a £25,000 grant award, to be apportioned between Magical Mushroom Company and the successful applicant, as agreed on a bilateral basis.

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The Innovation Exchange is supporting Magical Mushroom Company, through the InnovateUK KTN Net Zero Catalyst programme to find solutions to gather data and help optimise its mycelium growing facility. Magical Mushroom Company wishes to engage innovators to find software analytics or sensor solutions that can help get a deeper understanding of when growth has completed for a given product. The solution provider will be able to access part of a £25,000 grant award to work with Magical Mushroom Company on the delivery of a proof-of-concept trial.

Background

Magical Mushroom Company (MMC) harnesses the natural flexibility and strength of mycelium, the material structure of fungi, to grow protective packaging at any scale, by combining it with agricultural waste such as hemp, cork and sawdust.

This offers a safe, sustainable and totally home-compostable alternative to plastic foams and is ideal for packaging, horticulture and interior design solutions. Since 2020, MMC has produced over 500,000 pieces of Mushroom®. Packaging and by 2023 it’ll effectively have removed more than 1,000 tonnes of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) packaging from landfill.

MMC undertakes a growing process to produce its product (see Innovation Exchange site for diagrams). MMC acquires the raw materials, (biomass and mycelium spores), that have already grown in a bag for ~4 days. MMC then fills bespoke moulds, which create the form to customer’s required shape. These moulds are loaded into trolleys and covered to generate the correct environment for growing. The mycelium grows between and around the biomass to strengthen the shape of the growing medium, which is most often hemp shives.

The mycelium feeds on the CO2 produced within the mould from the overall process. MMC would like to have more real-time data on temperature, humidity and CO2 levels to better understand the process. 

Existing Monitoring Technology

Within the factory, the heating and HVAC systems have temperature controls and thermostatic sensors to control the temperature in the growing room. There are currently no sensors installed within the frame and MMC has never tried fitting sensors within the mould.

MMC is interested in finding a monitoring or software analytics technology that can help it understand the growing process in more detail. Novel environmental sensors are within scope but it is most likely that Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) sensor solutions will suffice. The focus of the challenge is data acquisition and recording. While optimisation of this process is important, MMC has specified that it will first focus on data acquisition of the overall growing process at different stages.

For further details of the functional and technical requirements, and more information, see the link below.

Eligibility

Entrants to this competition must:

  • Be SMEs or individual entrepreneurs
  • Be UK based or have the intention to set up a UK base
  • Have not exceeded its Minimum Financial Assistance limit (or De Minimis, where relevant).

Rewards & Benefits

Shortlisted applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to MMC.

The final winning solution provider will receive:

  • A portion of a £25,000 grant award to work with MMC on delivery of a proof-of-concept trial (exact terms and funding amount to be agreed between MMC and the winning solution provider)
  • Support from KTN, if it is required
  • Invitations to attend or present at KTN events
  • Investor introductions, if required
  • Support if any Innovate UK or similar competitions are relevant.
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