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Dell samples shrooms for server shipping

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Dell will begin shipping its PowerEdge R710 rack server in übergreen packaging made from – wait for it – mushrooms.

"While it sounds unusual, this is an advanced biotechnology," writes Dell procurement director Oliver Campbell on the Direct2Dell blog, calling mushroom packaging "a way to utilize common agricultural waste products such as cotton, rice, and wheat chaff to replace styrofoam and polyethylene used as cushioning for packaging and other applications."

Not that the packaging will be made solely from cotton, rice, and wheat chaff. Rather, mushroom mycelium will be grown in and bind with those agricultural by-poducts to create the packaging..

Although Campbell's blog post did not specifically mention the supplier of their magical mushroom tech, the process of growing the packaging material that he described is identical to that used by Ecovative Design in its EcoCradle packaging system.

Ecovative Design touts EcoCradle as being "at the forefront of the bio-materials revolution," and praises fungi as "playing an indispensable role in breaking down organic matter and [being] key to planetary health."

In the EcoCradle process, says Ecovative Design, "This mycelium grows around agricultural by-products like buckwheat husks, oat hulls, or cotton burrs to any shape we make. In 5 - 7 days, in the dark, with no watering, and no petrochemical inputs, the mycelium envelops the by-products, binding them into a strong and beautiful packaging part."

Beauty, of course, is in the green eye of the beholder – but Ecovative Design is certainly high on mushroom stats. "Inside every cubic inch of EcoCradle, there's a matrix of 8 miles of tiny mycelial fibers!", they write.

And don't worry about spreading fungi throughout your data center. "At the end of the process," Ecovative Design writes, "we treat EcoCradle with heat to stop the growth so there will never be any spores."

Dell's pilot program will up the green ante by using the company's Multipack packaging: four PowerEdge R710s will be nestled into the same container, each protected by mushroom mycelium–based cushioning.

Campbell assures Dell's customers that the mushroom packaging is more than up to the task of protecting its PowerEdge R710s. "We've tested the mushroom cushioning extensively in the lab to ensure it meets our same high standards to safely protect our products during shipment – and it passed like a champ." ®

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