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German multinational giant and manufacturer of luxury vehicles and motorcycles BMW invested in Natural Fiber Welding through its venture capital firm, BMW i Ventures. The capital raised will help the sustainable material company scale its plastic-free leathers and textiles for commercial roll-to-roll production.
Natural Fiber Welding(NFW) founder Luke Haverhals, has worked as a chemist with the United States Naval Academy. After being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, Haverhals learned how to mold natural fiber structures at near-atomic precision.
The company created novel technologies designed to replace petrochemical-based materials such as synthetic leathers, and instead produces durable, 100% recyclable, and cruelty-free products. They are made of plant-based substances like hemp, waste cork, coconut, and vegetable oil.
NFW aims to commercialize these sustainable alternatives leathers, foams, and textiles. It’s building a new facility spanning more than 10,000-square-feet to do this. It will begin with manufacturing Mirum, its plant-based leather.
In the fashion industry, brands can send patterned textiles to NFW. These can be transformed into animal-free leather products and can be colored with non-toxic mineral pigments and plant dyes.
In a press release, Haverhals said: “BMW i Ventures’ commitment to high-performance companies across the manufacturing and transportation sector makes them an excellent investor and partner for NFW. We are honored to have their support as we continue to expand into new markets, like automotive, where all-natural, performance materials can have a huge impact in decarbonizing and creating a truly sustainable future.”
We are honored to have BMW i Ventures’ support as we continue to expand into new markets, like automotive, where all-natural, performance materials can have a huge impact in decarbonizing and creating a truly sustainable futureLuke Haverhals, founder and CEO, NFW
Global investor support
The investment made through BMW i Ventures will help the company to scale its production from batch processing of its materials to full-scale commercial capacity.
Managing partner at BMW i Ventures, Kasper Sage said: “Natural Fiber Welding has developed an innovative process of converting plants into all-natural, 100% recyclable material that mimic all the properties of traditional leather, yarns, and foams. Having a scalable, cost-competitive alternative to leather with premium qualities is key to further advance the decarbonization of the automotive industry.”
The BMW i Ventures invests in startups innovating in fields like transportation, supply chain, and sustainability. It invests in all stages with a special focus on Series A/B and in the past, has supported robotics firm Bright Machines, health supplements co Blackmore, electric company Proterra, and recycling service PureCycle.
Apart from investing in NFW, the BMW Group announced its plan to collaborate with the company to achieve its own sustainability goals. For instance, the Group wants to slash its CO2 emissions throughout its supply chain and that’s why it is on the hunt for recyclable and lower carbon footprint materials.
Last year, U.S. luxury fashion giant Ralph Lauren also invested in NFW, with plans to use the company’s technology to develop sustainable clothing.
According to the Circular Fashion Summit, the circular fashion industry is predicted to soar from US$3 trillion to US$5 trillion. Especially in the U.S., there is a growing preference for cruelty-free leather, with 55% of Americans opting for animal-free leather, given that animal welfare is a top priority for these consumers.
Lead image courtesy of BMW.