Modern Meadow, a Brooklyn-based startup focused on the biofabrication of ingredients and materials, received $40MM in Series B funding for their vegan leather. The company, led by Andras Forgacs, is creating a new and exciting market for growing animal products without the killing of animals, and with much lower land, water, energy, and chemical usage. The company hopes to become a top source for fashion, accessories, luggage, sporting goods, upholstery, and furniture.
Modern Meadow CEO and co-founder Andras Forgacs explains that biofabrication involves the design of cells to produce and assemble collagen and other proteins to yield leather that is “biologically identical” to traditional types. Sales of leather goods, including luggage, apparel and accessories, are expected to hit $91.2 BN by 2018.
“Today, as a co-product of the meat industry, it is subject to fluctuations in availability, quality, price, and growing demand. At Modern Meadow, we’re re-imagining this millennia-old material to create revolutionary new features without harming animals or the environment,” said Forgacs.
A new startup called Mycoworks, aims to use the root-like fibers found in mushrooms, the mycelium, to build environmentally-friendly textiles. Mycelium can be grown in substrate created from any type of organic agricultural waste and is naturally fire-resistant. The mushrooms grow within the material and can then be shaped into any shape after they form polymers that act like glue. Mycoworks recently graduated from the IndieBio’s accelerator where they received an initial investment from SOSV to develop their products and processes.
Three other companies have used nature as inspiration for their creations. One, Bolt Threads, who raised a $50MM Series C funding in 2015, has raised a total of $90MM to bring spider threads to market. Bolt recently announced a deal with Patagonia to further develop the company’s fabric. The startup uses a proprietary technology to create engineered silk fibers based on proteins from spider silk, but without using or harming spiders. Bolt’s fabrics have similar qualities of traditional silk-like warmth and softness, but will also be machine washable. Spider silk is known to be five times stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar. Bolt Threads isn’t the only company trying to create spider silk – the others, Japanese startup Spiber and German start up Amsilk, are both also targeting commercial spider silk.
Other companies have focused on small-scale, but high-quality options for the fashion industry using synthetic fabrics – such as Matt and Nat, Gunas, Stella McCartney, Vaute Couture, and Angela Roi. Even innovative companies, like Tesla, have identified vegan interiors as part of the “ultimate green car technology.” But it’s not just Tesla that’s going vegan – BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Ferrari all offer vegan leather interiors.
The market is ripe for high-quality options that easily replace existing and popular textiles, such as leather, and bring to focus the reality of a future where our shoes, bags, luggage, and attire are completely free from animal products.