October 03, 2013

Exclusive: Ecovative Design, Sealed Air Corp. and a warehouse in Iowa

By: Pam Allen

Source: The Business Review

Ecovative Design, the Green Island, NY startup that uses mushrooms to make biodegradable packaging materials, is establishing its first out-of-state operations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Eben Bayer, CEO, tells me the company is expanding into the midwest to be closer to Sealed Air Corp (NYSE: SEE), the licensee of Ecovative's mushroom packaging. Sealed Air makes and distributes packaging materials, and is the sole distributor of Ecovative’s packaging products.

Ecovative will keep its headquarters in Green Island.

“We’re not going anywhere. The heart and soul of our manufacturing business is in Green Island,” Bayer told me today.

Bayer, who grew up on a farm in Vermont, started Ecovative with fellow Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduate Gavin McIntyre in 2007. The company now employs 60 at its 15-month-old Green Island production facility.

Bayer said Ecovative is scouting properties in Cedar Rapids that can be converted to a plant for processing their cultivated mushroom roots, and waste corn stalks that they purchase from local farmers, for packaging materials. It’s the same process that Ecovative employs at its Green Island plant, only it will be done in Cedar Rapids on a much larger scale. Ecovative does not release revenue.

The plant is scheduled to go online in 2014.

Meanwhile, Sealed Air is expanding its production. The Elmwood, N.J.-based company will open its own manufacturing facility in Cedar Rapids, and Ecovative will supply the equipment and processed corn waste and mushrooms for those operations.

Some of Ecovative’s other customers include Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) and Steelcase Inc. (NYSE: SCS). The company is preparing to commercialize its products for use in furniture and other home goods, and a U.S. auto manufacturer is testing the materials as fillers for hoods and car doors. The startup is also testing surfboards.