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Levi Strauss Invests in Stony Creek Colors

Natural indigo dye maker Stony Creek Colors is getting a major injection of green from two of its long-time partners.

The 10-year-old, Tennessee-based company just closed a second Series B2 funding round of $4.8 million co-led by Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) and Lewis & Clark AgriFood, a growth equity firm.

The cash infusion will be used to augment Stony Creek’s growing and post-harvest processing operations in Homestead, Fla., and to expand into more tropical growing regions beyond its extant 500 acres that span Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida. Most of these farms formerly cultivated tobacco and now practice regenerative agriculture by growing the company’s genetically enhanced indigo that captures more carbon than it uses.

“With this current investment round, the company is poised to reach a greater scale in agricultural production and processing to meet growing demand for clean colors in the textile industry,” said Tim Hassler, managing director at Lewis & Clark AgriFood, which was also the lead investor in the first round of $9 million of funding that was finalized in March 2021.

Stony Creek is the only industrial scale manufacturer in the world of 100 percent bio-based indigo, as certified by the USDA BioPreferred Program. Its vertically integrated model allows for full traceability from seed to farm to factory. “Stony Creek Colors was founded on the idea of harnessing naturally occurring chemicals in plants, to solve fashion industry challenges while giving farmers a profitable regenerative rotational crop,” said founder and CEO Sarah Bellos in the announcement.

For LS&Co., the investment made sense as it successfully collaborated with Stony Creek five years ago and has since used its plant-based dyes for its sustainable Wellthread collection. Earlier this year it also announced another partnership with the company through Fashion for Good to begin using a brand-new plant-based, pre-reduced indigo called IndiGold at scale. Stony Creek developed IndiGold with the chemical company Archroma.

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“Our work with Stony Creek Colors on the Levi’s brand has shown the potential of plant-based dyes, from our Wellthread collections to successful performance trials,” said Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation at LS&Co. “We’re excited to bring a plant-based solution to market at scale and do our part to make strides in the industry.”

The innovative dye maker also continues to receive kudos from the industry. It won the prestigious Groundbreaker Award for its work with Italian mill Albini Group at the Sustainable Fashion Awards in Milan in September and was a finalist for the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge in 2020.