AlgiKnit is a New York-based biotech start-up producing durable seaweed yarns. The company aims to conserve the maritime ecosystem whilst creating a sustainable and ethical fiber which can be processed into textiles for the fashion industry.
To produce the yarn, the research team extracts a substance called alginate from seaweed or algae. The alginate is combined with other renewable biopolymers for further processing. The biodegradable fibre is strong and elastic enough to be knitted into a textile. It is also suitable for use in 3D printing processes. The yarn gets its colour from natural pigments. Compared to conventional industrial dyeing, less water is required, and the use of toxic dyeing chemicals is completely unnecessary. The entire production process also has a very low carbon footprint.
A yarn which is good for the environment and fits into a circular economy
Algae are amongst the fastest-growing organisms in the world. The large brown alga grows about ten times faster than bamboo. It is already cultivated and sold on seashores around the world by fishermen seeking an out-of-season income.
Algae are ecologically valuable raw materials. This is because they actively contribute to the natural water purification process by absorbing nutrients which enter coastal waters from agricultural sources and sewers. According to Algiknit’s website, the company also emphasizes a circular production cycle: materials which are no longer needed become food for microorganisms in the sea and on land. Seaweed is therefore an ideal material for sustainable textile production.
The first garment made of algae yarn is under development
Algiknit is on the road to success. In 2017, the company was part of the RebelBio Accelerator Program in London – from which numerous successful biotech start-ups emerged – and in 2018, it was selected for the renowned Fashion for Good – Plug and Play Accelerator in Amsterdam. In November, the team also secured a seed investment of $2.2 million.
The team is currently developing prototypes for a T-shirt and testing the material for use in shoes. In the future, Algiknit may be used instead of leather or wool fibres in outerwear.
This article was written by Mirjam Walser, co-founder of Faloa, the online shop for vegan, sustainable and fair fashion. (Launch February 2019)