Polybion, a Mexican biotech startup, has created and begun producing a new, high-quality vegan leather made from agro-industrial food waste as a raw material. Celium, the resultant biotextile, is derived from cellulose, one of the world’s most plentiful and adaptable organic molecules, and is the first in a series of next-generation sustainably sourced and bio-assembled material alternatives aimed at replacing conventional leather.
Axel Gómez-Ortigoza, his brother Alexis, and Bárbara González Rolón launched Polybion in 2015. By upcycling agro-industrial food waste and utilizing living creatures such as bacteria, they created the tools and technologies to grow high-performance bio-assembled materials.
Polybion calls itself a cellular agriculture company, although the phrase is more widely defined as cells from fungi, bacteria, or animals that ingest nutrients in a sterile environment to encourage development. Polybion employs bacterial cells that are fed agro-industrial fruit waste to grow to generate the cellulose framework in the cell-based Celium. Celium’s cell-based membrane undergoes a long-term stabilizing procedure after formation to obtain its unique, high-performance properties. Polyion thinks it has the potential to become a new gold standard material for applications in fashion, sportswear, and automobiles.
Polybion claims that there is now enough fruit waste to manufacture 168 million square feet of Celium every year. Three additional sorts of local fruit waste have also been recognized by the company as being abundant. Celium is as circular as it gets, with no harmful chemicals produced at any point in the process and no major biomass emissions between growth cycles. Polybion’s long-term sustainability approach is around using trash as a raw material and developing, manufacturing, and finishing items all under one roof.
Animal-Derived Leather Is Out
Polybion is establishing a new bacterial cellulose manufacturing plant in Mexico—the world’s first—to scale up production following a recent $4 million Series A investment round. Polybion’s solar-powered, industrial-scale manufacturing plant can manufacture 1.1 million square feet of the company’s patented biotextile Celium every year at full capacity. Polybion plans to use the additional cash to expand its research and development operations as well as incorporate Celium into consumer products. To meet current demand from worldwide brand collaborations, the firm plans to reach maximum manufacturing capacity by the third quarter of 2023.
“Polybion’s Celium has resonated with forward-thinking, global consumer brands across multiple sectors… With our expanded manufacturing capabilities, we are enhancing our ability to work with some of the world’s most iconic global consumer brands while reducing carbon emissions and displacing the animal-derived leather value chain. Our goal is to enhance these brands’ ability to accelerate the development of bio-assembled products, increase sustainability, and accelerate the path toward the circular economy,” stated Alexis Gómez-Ortigoza.
Materials of the Future
Startups have been developing new types of vegan leather that are more sustainable than the previous generation, and working with established companies to bring the new materials to market in recent years. Desserto, a sustainable vegan leather substitute created exclusively from the nopal (or prickly-pear) cactus, was launched in 2019 by Mexican entrepreneurs Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez.
The material is biodegradable in part and meets the technical requirements of the fashion, leather goods, furniture, and automobile sectors. Cactus leather has the possibility to replace animal leather and synthetic materials that are not ecologically friendly because to its flexibility, breathability, and durability. Since its inception, the company has partnered on new vegan leather product lines with big brands like as H&M, Fossil, and Karl Lagerfeld.
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