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Interest in sustainable fashion is skyrocketing and investors are scrambling to provide alternatives

A woman with her hair in a ponytail, wearing sunglasses in a black trench coat, beige turtleneck sweater and grey skirt, holds up several shopping bags in both hands.
Image Credit: Wix

More people want alternatives to animal and petroleum based materials and fabrics. With the increased demand, in 2021, bio-energy and bio-materials startups raised $2.1 billion, accounting for about 4 percent of all agrifoodtech funding.

Biomaterials accounted for the majority according to a 2022 AgriFoodTech Investment Report by AgFunder. The reason? Consumers are caring more about sustainable fashion.

Leading the walk down the runway is Bolt Threads which secured $253 million in funding with a $1.15 billion valuation in September 2021, giving it the largest Series E funding round in the category. Based out of California, Bolt Threads is best known for its plant-based leather, with headlining partnerships with Adidas, Lululemon, and Stella Macartney. Working with Macartney since 2017, Bolt is the creator of Mylo: a mycelium-leather material used for the partnership’s handbags.

Close behind Bolt Threads is Spiber, a Japan-based startup that makes sustainable fabrics from sugars and proteins as an alternative to wool, cashmere, and denim. Recently making headlines for its spider silk replica, the company raised two rounds last year, allowing it to secure $221 million and $91 million respectively. Its “Brewed Protein” process relies on sugar and microbe fermentation. Products include apparel from PANGAIA and The North Face, and a partnership with prominent Tokyo designer Yuima Nakazato.

AgFunder also highlights Modern Meadow and alt-leather-maker. Their Bioleather1 (BL1) reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent compared to traditional bovine leather and bluewater consumption and land use by over 95 percent. The brand, working towards “building a sustainable bioeconomy” raised $130 million in its Series C funding round.

Amid the fashion startups is FootPrint Coalition portfolio company RWDC Industries, which raised $95 million for its Solon material, which serves as an alternative to petroleum-based single use plastics for drinking straws, cups and lids, cutlery, and other food-related packaging.

While bio-energy and bio-materials represent a fairly small category in the ag world, occupying just 4 percent of the $51.7 billion raised category-wide, the demand for sustainable fashion and packaging is picking up and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

In the first half of 2022, companies like seaweed biomaterial startup AlgiKnit, lab-grown leather startup VitroLabs, and Leukeather (made from upcycled river tamarind pods) are already turning heads in the funding sphere.

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