Drink our beer- and then wear it?!

Could we soon be drinking our beer before turning it into leather?

That’s the novel concept behind New Grain™, which converts waste barley grain from the brewing industry into a leather alternative for a host of industries, including fashion and automotive.

It’s the brainchild of Arda Biomaterials, whose mission is to transform waste into a valuable, animal and plastic-free leather alternative.

Leveraging chemistry and materials science, Arda’s new material has so far been entirely plastic-free in its development with biodegradability tests soon to be completed.

Given its market potential, Clean Growth Fund, has led a £1.1m investment in the company, alongside Plug and Play, Serpentine Ventures, Satgana, and a group of angel investors from alternative protein, fashion, and the climate tech ecosystem.

Arda was founded in 2022 by Edward TJ Mitchell and Brett Cotten, who met through Entrepreneur First – the global talent investor. Edward holds a PhD in chemistry, and Brett has worked across the alternative protein sector from startups to investors. The company, located in ‘The Leather Market’ building near London Bridge, is currently working with breweries along the ‘Bermondsey Beer Mile’ in South London, which was once the leather tanning district of the City of London.

In March 2023, the company was shortlisted in the H&M Global Change Award which heralds planet-positive ideas that will reinvent fashion and change the way it is seen, worn, and made. The company has displayed some of its early innovations at Fabrica X, part of the techstyle and agrifood community The Mills Fabrica, close to London’s King’s Cross.

Edward TJ Mitchell, CTO of Arda said: “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.”

CEO Brett Cotten added: “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. 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.”

Susannah McClintock, Investment Director of Clean Growth Fund said: “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.”

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