In Founder Focus we introduce entrepreneurs and change-makers working on innovative startups, social enterprises and SME’s around Aotearoa New Zealand.

At a glance

Founders: James Ferrier, Phil Matheson and Michel Khuwattansenee

Business: BioFab

Founded: 2018

HQ: Auckland

Can you tell us a bit about your business?

The environmental impact from production and disposal of hard to recycle expanded plastics, such as expanded polystyrene, poses significant challenges. The production process heavily taxes non-renewable resources, consumes vast amounts of energy and significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. The disposal of these materials leads to enduring impacts, with plastics taking centuries to degrade and contaminating habitats globally.

Both consumers and manufacturers are wanting to adopt more eco-friendly alternatives. However, finding functional, sustainable, and economically viable substitutes remains a hurdle for manufacturers, affecting adoption rates.

BioFab aims to revolutionise the packaging and construction industries using mycelium composites or ‘Mushroom Packaging’. Our innovative solution involves a biocomposite made from fungal mycelium and agricultural waste, using our unique fungal species as a biological binder and Ecovatives cutting-edge material processing technology. This environmentally friendly product significantly reduces carbon emissions, utilises 100% renewable raw materials, is home-compostable and non-toxic.

BioFab’s mission is to minimise the damage caused by toxic materials and promote a world where waste streams regenerate the natural environment. By exploiting the unique properties of fungi, we can create innovative biomaterials, export mycelium solutions globally, and offer a sustainable alternative to traditional fossil-based materials.

What’s the backstory for your business idea?

We founded back in 2018, and the team was quickly united by a single goal; to significantly reduce the amount of harm that toxic materials are causing to the planet and encourage a world where waste streams regenerate, not destroy the natural environment.

Our founders saw the massive need for new, truly sustainable materials to enter the market and their backgrounds in packaging and commercial mushroom growing provided the necessary skills set and vision for BioFab to form.

Our team is now world-class, boasting a wealth of knowledge in both the packaging and commercial mushroom-growing industries. What sets us apart is our specific industry experience in producing commercial-scale mycelium composites. This expertise is currently possessed by only a small number of professionals worldwide, making our team one of the leading authorities in this emerging field.

What programmes, learning or mentoring, or resources have been of assistance so far?

Our team have all had mentors and life pivoting experiences which we all feel has led us to where we are today. I also feel that everyone at BioFab strives to be great not only at BioFab but in every aspect of their life, both at home and out in society as a result of this mentorship and learnings

Some notable people who have inspired us along the way as a group are:

  • Aki Von Roy – current BioFab director
  • Andreas Mershin (MIT) – inspired James and Michael to start BioFab and still advise them today
  • Paul Stamets – world leading mycologist
  • Ecovative Design – Mycelium material pioneers and manufacturing partner of BioFab
  • Callaghan Innovation – particularly the C-Prize incubator we were on and our mentors Nick Sterling and Natasha Evans
  • The book Mycelium Running
  • Fungi and all its potential – not a book, just literally Fungi


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