Entrepreneur Eben Bayer grew up on a small family farm in Vermont where he helped raise and kill chickens and pigs. Now, his passion for solving the world’s biggest problems has turned him toward disrupting animal agriculture, with a hyper focus on Replacing pork bacon with a vegan version made from mycelium—the fast-growing root systems of mushrooms.
Bayer is best known for his company Ecovative, which employs the magic of mycelium to create sustainable solutions to problems such as plastic packaging, leather production, and building materials. Ecovative’s products have been widely used by major clients such as IKEA. Last year, the company began working with PVH Corp.—the parent company of fashion brands Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger—to replace both plastic-based vegan leather and animal-derived leather with its environmentally and animal-friendly mycelium leather.
Bayer was inspired to start Ecovative during his time at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where late professor Burt Swersey pushed him to identify the most pressing issues in the world and then develop technology to solve them. However, the entrepreneur’s upbringing kept him from thinking about mycelium as a solution for the environmentally destructive animal agriculture industry … until now.
“I had a blindspot around food. I moved away from eating meat completely in my own life but had this view [about] beautiful animal agriculture and how it’s not so bad,” Bayer told VegNews. “I got hit on the head twice from my friends in the sustainability community. Once about how animals are horrible for the planet when they are farmed intensively from a carbon standpoint and then twice, when I finally looked into factory farming. This was nothing like the pigs we raised in Vermont.”
These realizations pushed Bayer to expand Ecovative with a food arm, MyForest Foods, under which he launched MyBacon, a vegan bacon