The company hopes to “harness the power of renewable algae to have a real, real impact on climate change,” she said.
A green solution
Algae, which includes algae, are already used in other industries; Food, pharmaceutical and even biofuel sectors view this group of aquatic organisms as a sustainable material.
Krebs saw an opportunity to apply algae to textiles as well. She has been in the fashion industry for 15 years and has seen firsthand the pollution and waste that the industry has to offer. After quitting her job in 2014, she started Algaeing in 2016.
The algae are supplied by another Israeli company, Algatech, which is grown in seawater in indoor “vertical farms” powered by solar energy. This means that, unlike cotton, it does not take up agricultural land and does not cause any CO2 emissions associated with the use of fertilizers.
Algaeing has developed a patented algae-based formula in its laboratory in Israel. Credit: Courtesy Tammy Bar Shay / Algaeing
Algaeing converts the algae into a liquid formula, which can then be used as a dye or, in combination with cellulose, a plant fiber, can be converted into a textile.
Krebs said Algaeing’s focus is on changing the supply chain and the company is preparing to launch its patented technology commercially in 2022.
Redesign of the fashion industry
“Algae and Renana [Krebs] address three central weaknesses in the fashion industry: the dependence on freshwater for fiber cultivation; the use of chemicals, both in pesticides for growing fibers and dyeing textiles; and third, energy consumption. “
Erik Bang, Head of Innovation, H&M Foundation
Currently, algae-based fibers are more expensive than traditional fibers like cotton, but Krebs said it adds value to the brand as a sustainable and ethical product.
Bang said that over the past five years there has been a steady rise in sustainability awareness in fashion, attracting “new types of investors” from diverse backgrounds in technology, materials science and biochemistry.
Its dyes and textiles are biodegradable, non-toxic and vegan. Credit: Courtesy Tammy Bar Shay / Algaeing
Algaeing received the H&M Foundation Global Change Award in 2018, and the company’s work with algae underscores a “brilliant potential source” for future textile fibers, Bang said.
“Algae and Renana [Krebs] address three central weaknesses in the fashion industry: the dependence on freshwater for fiber cultivation; the use of chemicals, both in pesticides for growing fibers and dyeing textiles; and third, energy consumption, “said Bang.
He adds that while consumer behavior is changing, it is still expensive for the industry to invest in and scale up sustainable technology. “We need legislators who change the playing field and lean it so much more in favor of circular and sustainable practices and punish old habits,” said Bangs.
While Algae initially focused on reinventing fashion fabrics, the pandemic offered another opportunity. In 2020, Algaeing began working with Avgol, a nonwovens manufacturer specializing in hygiene, medical and PPE products.
Krebs said the pandemic has shown companies and brands that adapting to new challenges is vital. While the most recent challenge has been Covid-19, the bigger, long-term challenge is climate change – and this is where Cancer hopes algae can make a difference.
“We’re creating a new generation, a new product category,” said Krebs.