The Shroom Shelter

Catriona Brown, BEng/MEng Product Design Engineering

The Shroom shelter is a tree shelter designed to offer a plastic-free alternative for tree planting. Current tree shelters are made from polypropylene and therefore should be collected after use. However, due to the cost and time associated with labour to collect these shelters, they are often abandoned. This leads to plastic littering the surrounding landscape. Cable ties are also used to secure the stakes to the shelters, another plastic component that can cause pollution.

This new shelter design is made from mycelium. It is a fully compostable material, removing the need to collect the shelters and eliminating the risk of plastic pollution. The mycelium has a bio-based coating applied to extend its lifetime to protect the sapling effectively. After this time, the coating wears away and the shelter will begin to degrade. The young tree will break free at this point and the mycelium pieces will fall onto the ground and compost in 60 days.

Mycelium is the root-like fibres of fungi that grow beneath the ground. To create the solid material, the mycelium is combined with a substrate like dry plant matter which is the most abundantly available raw material on earth and can be sourced from local waste streams. The mycelium substate is filled into a mould and left out of direct sunlight to ‘grow’ for 5 days. During this time, the mycelium ‘eats’ the substrate, combining it together like a natural glue, forming a solid material in the shape of the mould cavity. Growing mycelium has a very low carbon footprint as the mycelium itself is doing all the work instead of machinery. In addition to this, when producing one tonne of mycelium, two tonnes of CO2 are captured from the atmosphere.

The design of the shelter has also removed the need for additional fastenings which makes the installation process a lot smoother and ensures no plastic components are involved. The shelter simply slots onto the stake using a slit in the shelter wall. The conical form of the shelter enhances sapling growth by creating optimum growth conditions. This improves the overall sapling growth success rates.

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