Telluride Mushroom Festival: Hemp & Mushrooms, Match Made In Heaven?

The 37th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival takes place Thursday, August 17 – Sunday, August 20. The full scheduled is here. Migrate around the site to find info on presenters, venues, book-signings, etc. Or filter by topic or venue. Festival overview in detail here. Tickets/passes here.

Please scroll down to listen to Penelope Zeller’s podcast about her life and work and the subject of her talk: Fungi and Agricultural Hemp: Combined Product Opportunities, Thursday, August 17, 10:30 a.m.

Is it a match made in heaven?

Since the subject is fungi and hemp, more like a match made in heaven – but realized on the earth as an emerging industry, flashing all shades of green – for dollars and (sustainable) sense.

Proof positive is Ecovative Design, an evolving company which sells mushroom and hemp-growing kits that morph into lamp shades, bowls, planters, even packaging material.

Mycelium is the root structure of mushrooms. Its interweaving fibers or threads can bond materials like wood together, effectively acting as a kind of natural glue. Lamp shades and Ecovative’s other kits contain a mixture of corn stalk and hemp bound together by mycelia.

Sue Van Hook is Ecovative’s chief mycologist. And she was a former keynote at the 35th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival in 2015. Van Hook is passionate about the impact mushroom materials could have on industry.

The current markets pay nothing for the ecological and health costs of their products’ entire life cycle– carcinogenic toxic styrenes. At present, there is no accountability for the long-term disposal of certain products, such as packing peanuts. And there’s a reason for that: Plastics are cheap because they are made of petroleum, which is heavily subsidized. If we chose to subsidize agricultural crops and mycelium, folks would be lining up down the street to become an Ecovative customer.”

In addition to the packaging materials mentioned above, Ecovative has other applications in its pipeline:

“We grew a mushroom insulated tiny house. We have replaced plastic foams used for art and architecture installations and surfboard cores, hand planes, and drones. We have replaced foam used in dried floral arrangements. We replaced plastic foam buoyant rings used to launch NOAA’s climate change/tsunami detection devices.”

At this point, the sky isn’t even close to the limit.

Just ask another featured presenter at the upcoming Telluride Mushroom Festival, August 16 – 20. Penelope Zeller has been an amateur shroomer (Boomer shroomer?) since 1968 and deeply involved  in industrial hemp for the past three years.

In the world of mushrooms, Zeller co-authored (with Manny Salzman, Marc Donsky, Linnea Gillman & Jason Salzman) and was the lead author for the article “Ecovative’s Breakthrough Biomaterials” published in the Spring 2012 issue of FUNGI Magazine.

At the Telluride Mushroom Festival, her talk targets the question we posed up front: Is fungi and hemp a match made in heaven? – or Fungi and Agricultural Hemp: Combined Product Opportunities, a deep conversation about the potential to combine industrial hemp and mycological properties with an eye towards product R&D, product development, economic development and even cost effective environmental remediation.

“…Investors are looking for the next big product to launch, and make a fair profit in the process. In today’s climate of cultural shifting to better business practices even Wall Street and Hi-Tech investors are opting for cleaner and more modest ROI on products and services that can boast ‘green’ (and mean it), B Corps qualified or just offer honest old-fashioned good business practices – with no gender harassment stains on their products.

“The combination of hemp and mushrooms may be just that next big – and sustaining – for investors, government agencies, research labs, and private business. This (Zeller’s talk) is a unique opportunity to examine the pros and cons of consciously creating plans to serve the entire supply chain with two products easily integrated into the Colorado manufacturing line-up…,” explains Britt Bunyard, director, Telluride Mushroom Festival and editor-in-chief, FUNGI Magazine.

What are the pros and cons of serious mushroom peeps collaborating with serious hemp processors and researchers?

Find out more by listening to Penelope Zeller’s podcast.

More about Penelope Zeller:

Zeller is a project coordinator, business researcher and product placement specialist. Successfully serving in the medical, high-end retail, minerals and gems, food, land use/zoning, government, mortgage fraud and manufacturing trades, her unique ability to see trends across industries has helped her clients craft their businesses from startup through liquidation or succession.

She is also a teacher, coach, author and chef and says by way of describing herself: “I’m a matchmaker, sales-type and ‘fixer’ at my core…. with a smidge of ‘geek’ in the DNA. I do not fear much of anything. Well, spider webs give me the creeps….”

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Susan Viebrock

Susan Viebrock

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. For 19+ years, Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.

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