This is not science fiction, but a reality developed by Spiber Inc., a biotechnology venture from Yamagata, in Japan.
Among the different applications this company develops Brewed Protein polymer produced through a fermentation process that uses sugars and microbes, rather than petrochemical or animal-derived raw materials.
Among the different applications Spiber fibers can offer there are films, filament yarns, staple and spun fibers which can also be used for knitwear and woven fabrics, along with denim, fleece, fur and leather alternative materials.
Some (recent) history
Spiber was founded in 2007 by Kazuhide Sekiyama and Junichi Sugahara who began investigating in spider silk while at Kejo University, but only as of 2022 they started its first mass production plant in Rayong Province, in Thailand, with production scale slated to increase over the coming years.
The company’s name is inspired by natural origin materials like highly resistant spider silk–hence the company and the material's name combining the words “spider” and “fiber”–as the founders’ original goal was to use biotechnology to produce and commercialize protein fibers with similar properties to natural spider silk.
How silk-like properties meet cashmere, but impact less
These nature-inspired, plant-based materials guarantee high levels of insulation, breathability, along with a soft and luxurious touch similar to cashmere, though they offer the potential benefit of significantly reduced comparative environmental and animal welfare impacts.
Moreover, Brewed Protein fibers biodegrade in natural soil and seawater at ambient temperatures, or can be broken down into nutrients for reuse, and have the potential to close the loop in supply chains, and to enable circularity.
For instance, it has started developing the capacity to create dope-dyed fiber-made by mixing dye into the Brewed Protein polymer solution before spinning into colored fibers. Once it will complete implementation of this process at commercial scale, it will be able to offer pre-colored fibers which can then be used to create colored spun yarns and fabrics without requiring a subsequent dyeing process and the consequent impact on water and the environment.
From sugar- and corn-fed proteins to old textile-derived ones
The company is also working to minimise its operational footprint through cleaner energy procurement and raw materials produced using regenerative agricultural principles, while also striving to ensure high standards of sustainable sourcing and human rights throughout its value chain, including the well-being of its own employees.
A second commercial production plant in the USA is currently under preparation in collaboration with ADM, a multinational food processing and commodities trading corporation, and is scheduled to commence production within the next few years.
Among other future studies, the company aims to acquire additional experience and know-how and start using unused or old textile and apparel waste as nutrient raw material for its Brewed Protein production as an alternative to sugar.
To demonstrate its commitment to best practice in social environmental and governance topics, Spiber is aiming to achieve B Corp status as early as 2024, in order to certify its standards of performance, accountability, and transparency.