Oliver Campbell

How Dell hopes to ship your next server -- on mushrooms

April 5, 2011: 3:21 PM ET

Could a friendly fungus eventually eliminate styrofoam packaging?  Don't laugh, it just might.

Green Packaging

Dell's Oliver Campbell with the company's new mushroom-based Green Packaging. Credit: Russ Curtis

FORTUNE -- If your job was to ship 250 pounds and $25,000 dollars worth of computer servers, you'd no doubt pack them in a box using only the safest materials.  And yet when Dell (DELL)  ships four of its PowerEdge R710 servers it will soon offer a new packaging made of...mushrooms.

The idea seems off-the-wall, but it also seems to work.  Dell first builds a mold, then fills it with cotton husks, a waste product left over from cotton gins.  Next it injects mushroom spawn, which eats the sugars and carbohydrates in the cotton. As its root structure grows it hardens to fill the mold.

"We're not reliant on carbon- or nuclear-based fuels to grow this packaging," says Oliver Campbell, Dell's director of procurement packaging. "It's self-energizing." More

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