Proofing Mycelium-based Buoys in Aquaculture Applications

Project Overview

Project Type: Research Only
Funds awarded in 2023: $192,221.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2025
Grant Recipient: Greenhorns
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Sue Van Hook


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: aquaculture
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Our project will validate the feasibility of using organic alternatives to plastic aquaculture gear to eliminate or reduce pollution from use of plastic buoys in oceans. Farmers are aware of the environmentally harmful effects of plastic flotation devices, but are not aware of any organic alternatives that would be as effective. With tight bottom lines, they can’t afford to risk losing product by using experimental materials for flotation.

    The study will test the hypothesis that buoys constructed with mycelium and agricultural byproducts, “mycobuoys”, can be as effective as traditional plastic flotation devices for use in oyster cultivation.

    By designing, growing, deploying, and monitoring 433 “mycobuoys” in phase one across 7 farms in Maine, we will be able to observe the performance of the buoys in practical aquaculture applications. Buoy shape and dimensions will be dictated by the needs of participating farmers, with whom we will work closely throughout the project. Our experiment will use four treatments for comparative analysis; our control group will have no coatings applied to the buoys, two groups will each receive a different organic coating, and the final group will be treated with traditional lobster buoy paint.

    Buoys will be monitored bi-weekly by participating farmers, with data collected using standard methodologies to ensure comparability. At the end of the five-six month oyster season, results will be compiled and disseminated; if successful, our team will produce 1,000 of the top performing myco buoys in 2024.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Mycelium-based buoys will be grown, formed, and deployed in practical aquaculture applications, where they will be monitored for rate of degradation, buoyancy, and surface fouling.

    Ultimately, we aim to optimize and replace harmful plastic buoys which produce micro and nanoplastics, contributing to the death of marine life and the pollution of waterways.

    If successful, our pilot group of 7 participating farmers and the Downeast Institute of Maine will demonstrate to aquaculturists and fishermen throughout the Northeast that there are effective alternatives to plastic flotation which do not degrade into environmentally harmful byproducts.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.