Home Innovation American Start-up AlgiKnit Wins EUR 100,000 For Environmentally-Friendly ‘Seaweed Textile’

American Start-up AlgiKnit Wins EUR 100,000 For Environmentally-Friendly ‘Seaweed Textile’

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Photo: Roy Beusker
Photo: Roy Beusker

The New York start-up AlgiKnit won EUR 100,000 in the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2018. During the final, 26-year-old Tessa Callaghan impressed the international jury with her environmentally-friendly ‘seaweed textile’, a kelp (a type of seaweed) which is spun into yarn.

In addition to AlgiKnit, LettUs Grow from the UK and AquaBattery from The Netherlands will take the same amount home. The first prize of half a million euro goes to the air bubble curtain developed by The Great Bubble Barrier from The Netherlands.

Photo: Roy Beusker
Photo: Roy Beusker

The runner-up prize of EUR 200,000 is for the textile recycle marketplace founded by Estonian start-up Reverse Resources. This brings the total prize pool of one of the biggest sustainability competitions in the world to EUR 1 million. In addition to the prize money, all five finalists will receive six months of expert coaching to improve the likelihood of their businesses succeeding.

The American start-up AlgiKnit makes fibres from kelp (a type of seaweed) that can be spun into yarn. By using biomaterials, AlgiKnit offers a solution that could transform the highly polluting textile industry into a circular economy. After having been used, this seaweed textile can serve as compost or animal feed. It also reduces the carbon footprint of the clothing industry, because no harmful fibre particles are lost during washing, such as is the case with polyester. The company is working on a prototype of a T-shirt and sneakers will be next.

This year, a record number of 845 entrepreneurs from 100 countries submitted their sustainable business plans aimed at combating climate change. Last year, the Rwandan start-up EarthEnable won the EUR 500,000 first prize with their sustainable alternative to cement.

The finalists:

Air bubble curtain to battle plastic soup
Female sea sailor Anne Marieke Eveleens (29) is co-founder of the Dutch start-up The Great Bubble Barrier, from Amsterdam. Approximately 80% of the plastic floating in the oceans enters the sea via rivers. In order to tackle plastic soup, The Great Bubble Barrier has developed an air bubble screen for use on riverbeds that catches plastic before it arrives at sea. The Great Bubble Barrier sends high-pressure air through a perforated tube on the riverbed. This creates an air bubble curtain that blocks both the stream of plastic waste on the surface and the floating microparticles underwater. The plastic then floats to the waterfront along the air bubble curtain, where it is collected for recycling.

Storing renewable energy in water and kitchen salt
TU Delft spin-off AquaBattery has developed an energy storage system that works on the basis of water and table salt instead of rare, and therefore expensive, raw materials. Because no chemical reaction is required to store and release energy, this innovation offers a sustainable solution for storing energy that has been won from renewable resources, such as wind and solar energy. The non-toxic composition and scalability of the ‘Blue Battery’ make this energy storage system also suited for urban areas. Being able to sustainably store the increasing amounts of renewable energy is crucial to the transition to sustainable energy. Emil Goosen (29), co-founder of AquaBattery, will represent the start-up at the final.

Seaweed textile
Tessa Callaghan (26) is co-founder of the American start-up AlgiKnit. This company makes fibres from kelp (a type of seaweed) that can be spun into yarn. By using biomaterials, AlgiKnit offers a solution that could transform the highly polluting textile industry into a circular economy. After having been used, this seaweed textile can serve as compost or animal feed. It also reduces the carbon footprint of the clothing industry, because no harmful fibre particles are lost during washing, such as is the case with polyester. The company is working on a prototype of a T-shirt and sneakers will be next.

Growing crops in the mist
British start-up LettUs Grow is represented by co-founder Charlie Guy (25). One third of the global carbon emissions can be traced back to our food production processes. As a result of the increasing global population, emissions are increasing even further and farmland is becoming scarce. Vertical urban farming offers a solution. This is a type of agriculture where stacked cultivation layers are used in factory halls or empty office buildings. By making use of vertical space, the yield per square metre is higher than with traditional agriculture. LettUs Grow has developed a unique growing method for this type of cultivation. Contrary to methods where crops are grown in soil or water containers, LettUs Grow lets the roots hang in a dense, nutritious mist. This results in a better harvest, and significantly less water and energy consumption. Also, by growing the crops closer to the consumer, the carbon emissions caused by transport decrease as well.

Recycling marketplace for the textile industry
Ann Runnel (36) from Estonia is founder of the Reverse Resources start-up. Reverse Resources is a software platform for the clothing industry’s recycling process. Using the platform, clothing manufacturers can directly align their supply of waste textiles with textile recyclers. This allows textile recyclers to gain better insight into the quality of the waste flows, and will result in a decrease in the demand for new fabrics (-3%), as well as in wasted textiles (-20%) in factories. Until now, this was impossible and many waste textiles remained unused. As a result, they were eventually incinerated. The platform also offers a solution for mapping and tracing waste textiles from the textile and clothing production process.

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