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Is Brewed Protein the Next Stage in Plant-Based Apparel Fibers?

“Brewed proteins” could be coming to a closet near you.

Agricultural firm ADM and Spiber Inc., a Japanese biotech outfit, are combining their expertise to expand the production of the latter’s innovative Brewed Protein polymers for use in apparel and other consumer products.

The collaboration will combine Spiber’s structural protein fermentation technology with ADM’s experience in large-scale fermentation technologies, engineering and operations, and extensive agricultural supply chain. The Brewed Protein polymers will be produced by ADM in the U.S. using plant-based dextrose as a feedstock, and then shipped to Spiber downstream facilities, where they will be processed into an array of materials, primarily fibers, for use in a variety of applications such as apparel, lightweight auto parts and high-performance foams.

The companies believe Brewed Protein polymers will play a critical role in expanding the range of plant-based, sustainable alternative materials in those industries.

“Consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable innovation in the products they purchase and we’re excited to partner with Spiber to help bring this leading-edge technology to market,” said Ian Pinner, ADM’s chief strategy and innovation officer and president of the company’s Health & Wellness division. “Across ADM, we are creating value for customers and shareholders alike by finding innovative, exciting ways to use our array of plant-based products. From alternative proteins to substitutes for petroleum-based plastics, we’re excited to lead in the creation of whole new generations of in-demand, sustainable products.”

Kazuhide Sekiyama, Spiber’s director and representative executive officer, said after working with ADM for more than a year on the project, “we are pleased to take our partnership to the next level and expand Spiber’s production to the U.S.”

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“ADM has an amazing team, providing significant value for our business not only through its fermentation expertise, but also as a provider of quality, corn-based raw materials used in our process,” Sekiyama added. “This collaboration takes us to a new phase in the commercialization of Spiber’s materials, one in which Brewed Protein will be more widely available and at costs suitable for broader markets. Proteins represent the pinnacle material platform evolved and adopted by life on earth to ensure survival. Spiber remains committed to blazing a trail in providing such material alternatives for industry and playing a role in the transition to a more sustainable society.”

In 2019, the two companies began a long-term collaboration, in which ADM provided technical, engineering and process support, along with access to production resources, to help develop and test Spiber’s process at scale. Following the successful completion of that work, this new second phase extends the partnership between the two companies, creating a pathway toward commercial-scale production in the coming years.

Spiber Inc. is a Japanese biotechnology firm utilizing synthetic biology, polymer and material science for the development of novel protein materials known as Brewed Protein. Produced through microbial fermentation and utilizing agricultural feedstocks as their primary raw material, Brewed Protein polymers can contribute to animal-free and plastic-free initiatives in a range of fields, such as the apparel and automotive industries.

The former Archer Daniels Midland, ADM is global specialist in human and animal nutrition and a top agricultural origination and processing company involved in milling, processing, specialty feed ingredients and specialty food ingredients.