Ecological water purification method becomes freely available

Mycologist Dr Paul Stamets has announced the release of his company’s water improvement technology to the public domain.

Performing functions that Stamets has termed mycofiltration and mycorestoration, the technology entails “the intentional and judicious use of cultivated networks of fungal mycelium to facilitate water quality improvements in engineered ecosystems,” according to the company’s web site.

The application of specific strains of fungi has already proved promising for improving the quality and management of storm water, grey water and agricultural runoff.

The approach was invented by Stamets in the late 1980s after he discovered that a serendipitously placed ‘garden giant’ (Stropharia rugoso-annulata) mushroom bed had caused a reduction in bacteria runoff from upland pasture.

In 2012, a mesocosm-scale study jointly conducted by his company, Fungi Perfecti and Washington State University (WSU) confirmed the potential of mycofiltration media to removeE. coli bacteria from synthetic storm water under laboratory conditions. The study (report pdfhere) also showed that the ‘garden giant’ mushroom exhibits superior resiliency to the environmental conditions present in mycofiltration field settings. A peer-reviewed paper in production at the time of writing documents improved removal of bacteria with this species, affirming Stamets’ original discovery.

As founder and research director of Fungi Perfecti, TED conference speaker and passionate advocate of the power of fungi to remediate degraded land and water, Stamets is keen for others to benefit from the restorative potential of fungi.

“I initially filed a patent on mycofiltration in 2001 to protect the technology from misuse. I have since given up the patent, which, ironically, now makes this information freely available and impossible for others to patent in the future. The technology is public domain and it is my gift to environmental stewards.”

Under the open-source release, the techniques outlined in Stamets’ mycofiltration patent are now free for all to use, as are his formerly trademarked terms mycofilter and mycorestoration, leaving no barrier to the uptake of these natural and ecologically safe technologies for widespread land remediation by organisations and authorities worldwide.

Stamets said: “We remain dedicated to advancing the science and increasing the adoption of mycofiltration. The need is too great and time is too short for us to do it alone. We are happy to supply mycelium to people who wish to develop this technology, but we are not holding anyone to our business alone. The important thing is that we get this information out there and put to use.”

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