The current formula includes a blend of mostly cotton boll hulls, which is put into molds and inoculated with a fungus that grows into spaces between individual hulls, weaving tendrils and filaments through the blend and holding the pieces together.

 “One day after inoculation the fungus begins to grow,” Holt said. “It takes five days to complete the process. By day three it’s almost completely covered. They pop it out of the mold and put it into an oven to kill the fungus.”

He said the process can form any shape desired, depending on the mold. Texture also varies depending on the type of fungi and theparticular blend used.

The main challenge in the growth process is to allow the fungus to bind the hulls together without allowing mold to form. “Mold is the nemesis of fungus,” Holt said. The process may be ruined if mold develops.

Holt got started on the project following a presentation on gin waste uses at the Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops. Someone from Cornel University asked Holt if he was interested in meeting folks in the manufacturing sector.