Lewisburg innovator wins W.Va. Vanguard Ag competition

CHARLESTON -- Nima Shahab Shahmir of Lewisburg has won the 2017 West Virginia Vanguard Agriculture Design Competition for his environmentally sustainable packaging made from the roots of fungi. Shahab Shahmir’s Future Fungi uses mushroom mycelium to grow organic recycled products and materials in just two weeks.

As the winner, he will receive more than $10,000 in business assistance from the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI), which sponsors the yearly competition to recognize innovation in agriculture. RCBI will assist Shahab Shahmir with product design and development; logo creation and marketing; patent, trademark and copyright applications; business development planning; funding opportunities; and business incubator space.

The award was presented to Shahab Shamir February 13 during the annual West Virginia Small Farm Conference in Charleston by state Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt and Bill Woodrum, project coordinator for RCBI’s Agricultural Innovations initiative.

"Mr. Shahab Shamir's product is a unique proprietary process for replacing plastics used in packaging with all natural mushroom mycelium,” Woodrum said. “There are great market opportunities for a green alternative to plastics. Nima's product is biodegradable and much more environmentally friendly than other materials on the market. We look forward in helping him bring Future Fungi to market."

Shahab Shahmir’s packaging not only is strong and durable but can be recycled and used as mulch. The organic material breaks down in two to three weeks, providing additional nutrients to the soil.

Shahab Shahmir is a first-generation American. He and his parents immigrated to the United States seven years ago from Tehran, Iran. They specifically chose to settle in Lewisburg because it’s a quiet small town and brings them closer to nature, Shahab Shahmir said.