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Estonian CleanTech Shroomwell harnesses mushrooms at scale to combat climate change

By unleashing the power of fungi to fight deforestation and upvalue the world’s forests, Shroomwell is proving that there really is a mushroom for every problem under the sun.

Whenever people talk about the value of our planet’s forests—whether in terms of the environment or the economy — the obvious main characters in that story tend to be the trees. But there’s much more to the world’s forests than those towering giants.

Often relegated in the public’s perception to the role of tasty side dishes, fungi and mushrooms are some of the most mysterious and powerful organisms on the planet. And even though they’ve been climbing higher in the hierarchy of valuable resources in recent years, the true potential and significance of fungi remains poorly understood by most of the world.

Densely forested Estonia is perhaps almost notorious for its love of mushrooms. Each summer and autumn, foragers clad in rubber boots and equipped with giant buckets venture into the woods to track down these coveted little treasures to eat and store for the winter.

But Estonians have always loved to combine their love of nature with a deep desire to innovate. Enter Shroomwell, a CleanTech company that is mixing ancestral knowledge with cutting-edge science to unleash the full potential of the mushroom kingdom.

Mushrooms — the most misunderstood organisms?

Shroomwell started from a very simple idea: grow more mushrooms and create elixirs. Fast forward 20 years, and the mission has changed quite dramatically.

“Initially, the company was started because there were medicinal benefits of mushrooms that could be used for extending human health,” says Siim Raadik, CEO of Innovation at Shroomwell. “The company didn’t have a grand vision in that sense. When we started to widen our portfolio, our research team and scientists came up with many new ideas on how to implement fungi and mushrooms into the world.”

Today, Shroomwell has 15 science projects running at different stages, most of them related to extending human health or, crucially, focusing on climate efforts. The company cultivates mushrooms on a large scale — indoors and out — in Estonia and the US. It’s starting additional cultivation tests in Sweden. All the while challenging the traditional approach to forest value that only considers the value of the wood—by adding fungi to the equation.

“This has been a dramatic change in our vision and our scope,” Raadik says. “We were just mushroom growers and now we’re saving the world.”

Grow a mushroom, save the world

Saving the world armed with nothing but mushrooms—it’s a bold claim. But dig a little deeper, and it begins to make sense.

From cleaning oil spills and sequestering carbon to restoring biodiversity and supporting human health, there seem to be no limits to what mushrooms can allow humans to do. This seemingly endless variety of possibilities is reflected in the way Shroomwell itself is structured into two major branches.

The wellness side of Shroomwell focuses on producing various supplements from medicinal mushrooms. “Medicinal mushrooms are really in early research at the moment and mostly belong in the food additive category,” Raadik says. “But big pharma is looking into the molecules inside the mushrooms, too. We’re not talking about vitamins, we’re talking about antioxidants and polysaccharides that actually help the human body.”

It’s not just through food supplements that Shroomwell is aiming to have the biggest impact on the planet. The innovation side of the company has even more unapologetically ambitious goals, currently largely focusing on the forestry industry to combat deforestation.

In nature, fungi are quite literally everywhere, integral to plant growth and biodiversity. In symbiosis with certain fungi, trees can be more resistant to droughts or flooding, and sequester CO2, all while growing edible mushrooms. When planting a new forest, Shroomwell’s system of inoculating seedlings with different types of fungi allows this game-changing symbiotic growth.

Ultimately, according to Raadik, Shroomwell’s solutions, currently implemented on 700 hectares, create a completely new value chain for the forestry industry. As a result, the value of a forest is no longer measured only through cubic metres of wood, but also by the value of other revenues coming out of the forest. “This lessens the pressure on the forest owner to cut down trees,” Raadik concludes.

A hugely scalable endeavour

As with any world-changing ambition, scale is key. It just so happens that scale and speed are integral to Shroomwell’s mission at every stage.

At the research stage, due to being a private company, Shroomwell simplifies the research and gets practical results faster, according to Raadik. “What interests many partners like laboratories and Universities about working with us is the scale,” he says. “Because normally research test batches are very small, but we are doing it in hundreds of hectares, and even thousands of hectares in the future.”

And it’s not just the research that can work at scale. “From an environmental perspective, if you scale it up to millions of hectares, which is our goal in the United States and Sweden at the moment, you can have a very large impact,” Raadik says. “It is hugely scalable because you don’t need to have artificial light or artificial humidity. 99% of the work is done for you by nature.”

Raadik believes that in three to five years, Shroomwell will have their system implemented on 10,000 hectares. In the next decade, they will have reached millions of hectares around the world.

“I think we can bring about change, and I believe our upcoming projects are going to support this claim, and that’s wonderful,” he says. “We are making the world a better place by planting trees—making an environmental impact. And by consuming the resulting products you just maybe might live longer. We have ambition, we have drive, and we have scale. We’re not just playing small.”

Interested in investing in Estonia? Read more about the GreenTech opportunities in Estonia and what South Estonia, where Shroomwell is operating the largest indoor cultivation of medical mushrooms in the Nordics, has to offer. Use our 1:1 e-Consulting service to get advice.

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