An MIT lab managed to grow wood. Wait until you see how.

MIT researchers designed a method to grow wood in a lab, but selling lab-grown tables is a long way off.


January 22, 2021

To make a table, you typically need to grow a tree and chop it down — among other things — before you can sell it in a store.

But researcher Luis Fernando Velásquez-García and his team at MIT have another idea:

‘If you want a table, then you should just grow a table.’

Recently, the researchers developed a way to grow wood-like fibers in a lab, without soil or sunlight.

The team’s method works by extracting cells from the zinnia plant and culturing them “in a liquid growth medium” to “metabolize and proliferate.”

We’re not gonna pretend we know what that means — but it’s supposedly similar to 3D printing. Only here, the plant cells “print” themselves into molds.

Growing indoors has major implications for forestry and agriculture

If the researchers find a way to scale production at the right price — and they’re a long way off — then the potential to save trees globally is endless.

Currently, an area where indoor planting does make sense is vertical farming, a budding industry that raised $945m in 2019 VC funding.

Vertical farms layer plants on massive shelves and use solar power, infrared cameras, and other sensors to adjust environmental conditions. These systems support 24/7 growth, generating 350x the produce with < 5% of the water needed for outdoor farms.

Unfortunately, growing a table from scratch is still a ways away. But once it’s available, we’ll be the first in line.

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