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Cheers! Start-up secures 1.1 million pounds for leather-like material made from beer

By Simone Preuss


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A glass of beer. Image: Cottonbro / Pexels

There are no limits to the imagination when it comes to the search for sustainable textile innovations - bananas, squid genes and lately shrimps have all been tried and tested. Leather-like materials are especially in demand in the fashion and luxury industry. Now beer has also been discovered as such a potential alternative to leather, which does not require any plastic at all.

Beer lovers need not worry though because for one, the invention is not at the commercial scaling stage yet and for another, only waste barley grain from beer production is used, not the popular liquid itself.

New textile innovation from beer makes do without plastic

Inventor is the London-based company Arda Biomaterials, which recently secured an investment of 1.1 million British pounds (almost 1.3 million euros/1.4 million US dollars). The Clean Growth Fund invested along with others such as Plug and Play, Serpentine Ventures, Satgana and a group of angel investors from the alternative protein, fashion and climate tech ecosystem sectors.

Edward Mitchell (left) and Brett Cotten (right) of Arda Biomaterials with the raw material, the leather-like innovation and a well-deserved beer. Image: Arda Biomaterials

“Many people believe leather is a by-product of cows; it’s really more of a co-product that subsidises the continuation of animal agriculture. The spent grain from breweries is typically burned, sent to landfill, anaerobically digested into gas, or fed to animals as cheap feed – all very low-value use cases. I am thrilled that we can skip the cow to create a truly novel product that to date has been 100% animal and plastic-free,” explained Arda CEO Brett Cotten in a press release.

Arda was founded in 2022 by Edward TJ Mitchell and Brett Cotten, who met through global talent investor Entrepreneur First. Mitchell has a PhD in chemistry and Cotten gained experience across the alternative protein sector, from start-ups to investors. The company is currently working with breweries along the ‘Bermondsey Beer Mile’ in south London, where the city's leather tanneries were once located.

“The advent of cheap plastics wiped out a century of innovation in using natural inputs to make materials. Now, with sustainability in mind, we are discovering that the natural world has all the building blocks needed to create marvellous and sustainable materials. The production of leather is particularly resource intensive and the current alternatives are riddled with plastic. The chemical composition in waste grain is uniquely suited to be transformed into a material that can resemble many of the properties of leather and more,” added Arda’s CTO Mitchell.

The source material and Arda's biomaterial. Image: Arda Biomaterials

“We are delighted to invest in Arda Biomaterials and support the commercial development of their work: it’s a truly innovative solution to a significant environmental challenge. Arda’s technology has the potential to disrupt traditional leather production and significantly reduce the environmental impact of highly polluting sectors. We look forward to working with Brett, Edward, and the team to help bring this exciting technology to market,” commented Susannah McClintock, investment director of the Clean Growth Fund.

The Clean Growth Fund was launched in May 2020. The 101 million pounds venture capital fund supports the UK's most promising clean growth companies that are pioneering ways to reduce carbon emissions in power and energy, buildings, transport and waste. Alongside Arda, it has invested in 13 UK clean-tech companies to date.

“Drink your beer and wear it too”

With the help of the investment, Mitchell and Cotten expect to produce a finished material that can be sold to brands and retailers within the next twelve months.

“Now we can drink our beer and wear it too. This financing round led by Clean Growth Fund will allow us to get to a finished material that we can begin selling to brands and put into consumers’ hands. I can’t wait to see others wearing it”, confirmed Cotten.

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