Saltyco® is a materials science company that makes planet-positive textiles. Our mission is to build completely new supply chains for the textiles industry by reimagining everything from farming to manufacturing. To do this, we work with farmers and conservation groups to grow plants that heal areas of damaged land. Through this, they gain a source of raw material for textile production whilst simultaneously improving biodiversity, capturing carbon and saving resources.
Our first material is called BioPuff® it is a plant-based fiberfill alternative to goose/duck down and petroleum-based fillers. It is the first biodegradable, carbon-sequestering, plant-based down alternative made from plants grown using regenerative agriculture in efforts to restore peatlands. Saltyco® is the result of a young multidisciplinary group that started questioning supply chains in the fashion industry. Julian Ellis-Brown, Finlay Duncan, Neloufar Taheri and Antonia Jara-Contreras founded the company in May 2020. Their vision is to build a material supply chain that actively heals the planet, without imposing a threat to the health of people or the planet.
We were excited to hear about Saltyco®’s mission, inspiration and plans and wanted to find out more:
You refer to ‘planet-positive textiles’ and ‘actively healing damaged ecosystems’ through your ‘innovative material supply chain’. Could you tell us a little more about this?
Our ethos is to be ‘planet-positive’, meaning every decision and action carried out from process to product is led by principles that work for and with the health of our natural world. This is implemented through our selection of resilient crops, approach to regenerative agriculture and the insetting of sustainability into our proprietary technology. By placing these elements together, we’re able to design a material supply chain that is putting the planet first. We use our “planet-positive” accolades to guide our innovation whilst our life cycle analysis and cradle-to-cradle measure our impact at every stage of the supply chain.
Together with our partnered farmers, we heal damaged ecosystems by selecting wet-land crops that grow using regenerative agricultural practices and alternative/sustainable uses of natural resources. We source and grow our crops based on the needs of the natural ecosystems we work with. Our approach begins by understanding how the cultivation of our crops or conservation of land by removing our crops will benefit in healing that space. We currently have two forms of agriculture: paludiculture and conservation farming.
BioPuff® is an innovative material, what inspired you to create it and what future directions do you envisage for it?
The modern textile industry is damaging the planet, with the fashion/apparel industry being one of the largest culprits. When taking a closer look we realized that 66-80% of most of this environmental impact placed by apparel brands comes from their textile choices. This lead us to identifying a gap in the industry, current textiles such as fiberfill materials are damaging our environment. So we set out to innovate an alternative plant-based solution with a planet-positive supply chain. This is what inspired us to create BioPuff®.
BioPuff® as a replacement could save up to 30 geese for every jacket, reduce the plastic content by up to 70% and save up to 25 litres of fresh drinking water. (*when compared against equivalent goose-down or polyester jackets.
Moving forward we hope BioPuff® can begin to replace all harmful and damaging fibrefills in not only the apparel industry but also the larger sector of material insulation fillers. Our vision for BioPuff® and future products is to shift material supply-chains from the root into actively healing and planet-positive systems.
Your team’s multidisciplinary approach has been a great strength when it comes to problem-solving. Could you give us an example of this?
Saltyco® was formed with a multidisciplinary approach. This was inherent in our four co-founders all of whom originate from different cultures and professional backgrounds. Finlay is a chemist, Neloufar is a business strategist, Julian is a mechanical engineer, and Antonia is a designer. We all come from 4 different continents; North and South America, Europe and South-west Asia. This diversity helped us originate the idea and come up with multi-perspective approaches to problem-solving.
By approaching the “wicked” problems that brought us together, through a variety of technical, systematic, design-focused, and human-centered questions, we were able to identify the root causes of the problem and subsequently design and test multi-faceted solutions. For a start-up, this is ideal because you can form an idea/concept and create the entire system to implement it. One of the most significant examples is that we developed all the technology to extract the fibres between us in-house, failing cheaply and rapidly. This allowed us to scale production for an entire collection in only a year.
Have you been inspired by Biomimicry at all and if so, in what ways?
Instead of mimicking nature, at Saltyco® we try to work for nature whilst simultaneously serving the needs of our customers.
This means placing natural systems at the heart of our decision-making process, to constantly address the stakeholder that is most important to us all – the planet.
This doesn’t fit into the usual model of harnessing natural resources for the benefit of value creation for humans and many resist the idea, thinking it is more costly or less efficient. However, by building a value chain that considers the environment as a stakeholder, we can design far more longevity and sustainability into our business model.
Images courtesy of Saltyco®