Bast Fibre Technologies Inc. (BFT), maker of Sero hemp fiber, announced it has closed a major strategic financing with Ahlström Capital of Finland.
BFT said it will immediately begin work to expand fiber manufacturing capacity at its U.S.-flagship facility in Lumberton, N.C. and its European Union facility near Düsseldorf, Germany. The amount of the financing was not disclosed, but will enable BFT to produce more than 10,000 metric tons of Sero hemp fiber per year by 2023 and up to 50,000 metric tons annually by 2026.
“Nonwoven companies, converters and leading consumer goods companies are looking for viable natural fiber options to achieve their corporate sustainability initiatives as they move away from synthetics,” BFT CEO Jim Posa said. “The market for natural fibers is set for rapid growth, and this highly strategic funding will help BFT to solidify its position and further accelerate its expansion to meet the increasing demand for tree-free, plastic-free fibers.”
Lasse Heinonen, president and CEO of Ahlström Capital, said as the nonwoven industry transitions away from plastics, the company believes there will be exponential growth in the natural fibers market.
“As a responsible investor with a strategic, long-term mindset, we seek to invest in companies focused on solutions that help drive sustainable development,” Heinonen said. “With a strong and experienced management team, BFT is well positioned to become a global leader in the production of sustainable bast fibers. We see sustainable value-creating opportunities in the company.”
Noel Hall, BFT’s executive board chair, said it is important for the company to work with an investor that shares its values and vision of moving away from synthetic materials in nonwoven applications.
“Ahlström Capital has several complementary portfolio holdings in the nonwoven and sustainable fiber industries, making it both a natural fit and value-added investor for BFT,” Hall said. “We are pleased to welcome Ahlström Capital’s investment director, Andreas Ahlström, to BFT’s board of directors.”
BFT is a cleantech fiber engineering firm that uses advanced fiber processing technology to transform raw fibers from cotton, hemp and flax plants to meet the exacting standards required by nonwoven customers.
Ahlström Capital is one of Finland’s largest investment companies that in 2021 had net sales of its portfolio companies of approximately 4.4 billion euros ($4.26 million) and they employed almost 13,500 people in 33 countries. Its current portfolio includes significant holdings in Detection Technology, Glaston Corporation and Suominen Corporation. In addition, the portfolio includes Ahlström Invest B.V., Munksjö AB, M&J Recycling A/S and GPV Group A/S. Its portfolio also includes major real estate and forest holdings.