The company hopes to “harness the power of renewable algae to create a real, genuine impact against climate change,” she said.
A green solution
Algae, which includes seaweed, is already being used in other industries; food, pharmaceuticals, and even biofuel sectors are all looking to this group of aquatic organisms as a sustainable material.
Krebs saw an opportunity to apply algae to textiles, too. Working in the fashion industry for 15 years, she saw firsthand the industry’s pollution and waste. After quitting her job in 2014, she launched Algaeing in 2016.
The algae is supplied by another Israeli company, Algatech, grown in seawater in indoor “vertical farms” that run on solar energy. This means that unlike cotton, it doesn’t take up agricultural land, and it doesn’t have the carbon emissions associated with using fertilizer.
Algaeing has developed a patented algae-based formula at its lab in Israel. Credit: Courtesy Tammy Bar Shay/Algaeing
Algaeing converts the algae into a liquid formula that can then be used as a dye or turned into a textile when combined with cellulose, a plant fiber, which clothing manufacturers can do themselves using Algaeing’s proprietary recipe.
Krebs said Algaeing’s focus is on changing the supply chain, and the company is preparing for the commercial launch of its patented technology in 2022.
Redesigning the fashion industry
“Algaeing and Renana [Krebs] are addressing three key pain points of the fashion industry: the reliance on freshwater to grow fibers; the use of chemicals, both in pesticides for growing fibers and also dyeing textiles; and thirdly, energy use.”
Erik Bang, innovation lead, H&M Foundation
Currently, algae-based fibers are more expensive than conventional fibers like cotton, but Krebs said that as a sustainable and ethical product, it adds value to the brand.
Bang said that in the past five years, awareness about sustainability in fashion has increased steadily, and that’s attracting “new types of investors” with diverse backgrounds in technology, material sciences, and biochemistry.
Its dyes and textiles are biodegradable, non-toxic and vegan. Credit: Courtesy Tammy Bar Shay/Algaeing
Algaeing received the H&M Foundation Global Change Award in 2018, and the company’s work with algae highlights a “brilliant potential source” of future textile fibers, said Bang.
“Algaeing and Renana [Krebs] are addressing three key pain points of the fashion industry: the reliance on freshwater to grow fibers; the use of chemicals, both in pesticides for growing fibers and also dyeing textiles; and thirdly, energy use,” Bang said.
He adds that while consumer behavior is changing, it’s still expensive for the industry to invest in sustainable technologies and scale them up. “We need legislators to change the playing field, and tilt it so much more in the favor of circular and sustainable practices, and punish the old habits,” said Bangs.
While Algaeing was initially focused on reinventing fashion fabrics, the pandemic presented another opportunity. In 2020, Algaeing began working with Avgol, a nonwoven textile manufacturer specializing in hygiene, medical and PPE products.
Krebs said that the pandemic has shown businesses and brands that adapting to new challenges is vital for survival. While the recent challenge has been Covid-19, the bigger, long-term challenge is climate change — and that’s where Krebs hopes Algaeing can make a difference.
“We are creating a new generation, a new category of products,” said Krebs.