Mushroom Lab

The biggest industry and employer in Downeast Maine is wood pulp — which is shipped out of Eastport’s deep water port to Europe, or turned into paper and toilet paper by a Chinese company, the St. Croix Mill. Balsam wreaths are a 25 million dollar business in Washington County, and countless sawmills and gravel pits represent a sturdy, small-scale natural resource economy in our rural area.

As young farmers in this landscape, we ask ourselves the perennial question: “What other kinds of business could center on our abundant forests? What forms of production could we engage in that are sustainable, profitable, and carry the values and particularity of this place into the wider world?”

We are also pursuing action research into artisan charcoal — like a Brita filter, but handmade from alder wood, which grows abundantly in untended meadows and lowlands here.

This work is Inspired by Japanese, English, and other woodland traditions from around the world.

We figured that mushrooms might be one answer and have created a myco-lab in order to host artists, designers, and material scientists working to discover what may be possible with mushroom biocomposite "foam" , culinary and medicinal mushrooms, and other mycelium products.

In April, 2022, Greenhorns hosted mycologist, Sue Van Hook, for two weekend workshops to grow mushroom buoys (MycoBuoys™) in shapes that could float oyster traps deployed locally by Smithereen Farm. Over a dozen participants from as far south as Saco learned about mycelium based biocomposite materials as a new technology that is truly cradle to cradle. Together, we grew nine buoys that were used to launch oyster traps at three farms between Penobscot and Cobscook Bays.

The promise of these first trials for oyster aquaculture led Greenhorns and Van Hook to seek grant funding to support The MycoBuoy Project at Smithereen Farm. We will grow 400 buoys in several designs for different aquaculture equipment to be tested in 2023 among 8 oyster farms along the Maine coast. One key element of the project is to determine longevity for uncoated versus coated buoys using two bio-based sealants and a commercial sealant as a control.

We are excited to be presenting early results and upcoming experiments at two statewide aquaculture and fisheries conferences this winter and spring of 2023. Look for The MycoBuoy Project at the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center's Summit January 27th in Belfast and at the Maine Fisherman's Forum March 4th in Rockport.


Myco Resources:

Tactical Mycelium

Mycelium Based Materials for Product Design

The Production Process and Compressive Strength of Mycelium-Based Materials


More About the MycoBuoy Project