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Home » Japan’s Spiber Raises $65M to Scale Up Production of Eco Materials Made from Fermented ‘Brewed Protein’

Japan’s Spiber Raises $65M to Scale Up Production of Eco Materials Made from Fermented ‘Brewed Protein’

by Edwin Chambers
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Japanese eco materials startup Spiber has secured ¥10B ($65M) in funding to accelerate mass production of its fermentation-derived Brewed Protein for use in the fashion, automotive and personal care industries.

In what is a major capital investment for the Yamagata-based startup, Spiber has closed a ¥10B ($65M) investment round to further expand production of its climate-friendly Brewed Protein materials, taking its total funding to $489M.

The financing included participation from existing shareholders, and will be used to accelerate the mass production of its fermentation-derived fibres, resins, films and other materials, and facilitate its global expansion. It will also seek to strengthen its production system and R&D platform to meet an expected growth in demand and more diversifying needs.

“We are grateful for the continued support and confidence from our investors, financial institutions, and partner companies who deeply understand the value of our technology platform, development materials, and business prospects,” said Spiber co-founder and CEO Kazuhide Sekiyama. “Despite the challenging fundraising environment for startups amidst the global economic landscape, we have been able to sustain our growth thanks to their recognition and expectation.”

Using microbial fermentation to produce future-friendly materials

spiber brewed protein
Courtesy: Spiber

Fiber was founded in 2007 by Sekiyama, Hideya Mizutani and Junichi Sugahara, and uses microbial fermentation to turn produce into eco-friendly materials for fashion, automotive and personal care products.

The company leverages synthetic biology and material science to make its Brewed Protein materials, which can act as alternatives to animal-based, plant-based, as well as synthetic materials for multiple applications, including textiles, which is Spiber’s current primary focus.

To make the Brewed Proteins, the startup uses agricultural waste as feedstock, which helps advance its mission of achieving a circular economy. This can be turned into fermented polymers that can substitute cashmere, fur, wool, leather and silk, plus fossil-fuel-derived, plastic-based synthetic fabrics.

The Brewed Protein platform is completely bio-based, biodegradable, and cruelty-free. It means the company requires much fewer resources to produce its materials, and has a much lower climate footprint as a result. For example, its Brewed Protein fibres can emit up to 75% fewer GHG emissions than cashmere, while using 94% less water and taking up 86% less land. Similarly, it needs 86% less land than merino wool too, and 97% less water.

In 2018, it began constructing a commercial-scale facility in Thailand (which is now operational), and is currently building another in Iowa in the US. “We remain committed to the establishment and enhancement of the biotechnological foundations essential for realizing a circular society, as well as fulfilling our responsibility for social implementation as a frontrunner in this sector,’ said Sekiyama.

A host of brand collaborations underline Spiber’s success

spiber toyota
Courtesy: Spiber

The company’s materials have been refined through 17 years of research, which it says are meticulously designed at the DNA level. Their potential has been recognised by investors – as can be evidenced by the sums it has raised – and industry players alike. Its engaged in joint projects with various apparel brands and has had 15 companies launch products using its materials.

These include Pangaia, The North Face, Yonetomi Seni, Goldwin, Nanamica, Cavia and Woolrich in the fashion industry, Shiseido Japan in the cosmetics space, and Toyota in the automotive world (which launched a concept vehicle using its Brewed Protein fibres last year). And as part of its circular economy initiative, the startup has rolled out a biosphere circulation project that promotes biodegradable textile waste as a new material, working alongside partners like Kering, Eileen Fisher, Johnstons of Elgin, and DyStar.

Spiber has also benefited from labelling conventions, with the International Organization for Standardization revising the definition of “protein fibre” in 2021 to include not just naturally-derived proteins, but also those produced synthetically, alongside setting the minimum protein content required for such fibres at 80%. This made it the first time synthetic structural protein materials have been recognised internationally as a new material category.

And earlier this month, the company unveiled a new denim fabric made in collaboration with fellow Japanese manufacturer Ueyama Textile, which uses 35% Brewed Protein fibres and 65% organic cotton. It represents an upgrade from its current denim made with 5% Brewed Protein and 95% cotton from denim giant Nihon Mempu.

Source: Green Queen

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