The Grow Machine


This project was made at Autodesk Pier 9

Currently on show at OpenCell

Video by Blue Bergen


Rethinking the way we make things:


A machine to grow biomaterials at home: The Grow Machine provides the perfect growing conditions for biomaterials. The incubator on the right-hand side is a clean environment with temperature, humidity and light controlled settings to adjust the environment inside to suit the particular living organism. 

The grow machine aims to bridge the gap between scientists developing biomaterials in laboratories and the amateur maker intrigued by the potential of growable materials. While the machine has been designed with mycelium (the roots of mushrooms) in mind, the conditions are also suitable for other biomaterials like cellulose. 


The strategy behind the Grow Machine for the user is:

Engagement in Manufacture + Design = Conscious Consumption




Connecting with our products through nature:


My work focuses on reduction of consumption through user engagement in production and creation. Through these mechanisms, I propose that customers will become aware of the time and resources required to make products, and thus come to value them more. I am interested in changing how users connect with their products by challenging the throw-away mentality. It is important to be an informed consumer of the life cycle of our products; if we are informed we are more likely to change our behaviour if something isn’t produced how we expect. For example, the clothes we buy from low cost brands are made in factories with very poor working conditions; if we knew that when we bought them it would form a negative narrative of the product and therefore influence their consumer decisions. In terms of biological materials if we were to grow our own products from waste packaging and then throw the item on the compost heap after use it would help people to see the journey of an object. 


But, what can we grow:


There are millions of species of mycelium, all of which have different growing processes and preferences, thus affecting the final material properties. However, there are some benefits that span the majority of most fungal species:



Water-resistant (but shouldn’t be drenched)

Strong (shape depending)

Biodegradable when in a natural environment like a compost heap or soil (but not biodegrade in an inorganic dry environment).


The Grow Machine doesn’t offer a simple way to produce biodegradable objects; it requires creative thinkers to understand the material and how it grows, then imagine and design an object within the constraints of the material properties. It takes time to learn and understand the process of working with a sensitive material during its growing phase, all of which adds to the engagement and connection the user has with the end product . Here are some suggestions from designers and artists who I ran a workshop with: 

Bike helmet

Knee pads

Meditation cushion for camping

Seed growing pot


Raw material for furniture and fabrication


‘Paper’ plates


Dog toys


Seat cushions

Thin sheets to wrap objects for fire proofing


Edible wearables

Material connections 

High density material


Autodesk Pier 9 Residency 

The grow machine was built during an incredible residency at Autodesk Pier 9 in San Francisco which was filled with learning and exploring manufacturing and fabrication. The pictures below are a selection of some of the processes it took to build The Grow Machine. 


grow machine process 1.jpg
grow machine process 2.jpg