Published 10 months ago.
About a 6 minute read.
Image: Modern Meadow
/ This article is sponsored by
Modern Meadow Inc.
Bio-design tech company Modern Meadow develops circular and regenerative approaches to creating a wide range of versatile materials, with no loss of performance or quality, that can be quickly scaled and brought to market.
We live on a planet in crisis, and the choices we make today will impact the
world we and our children inherit tomorrow. Consumers are well aware of the
threats to our planet and are increasingly demanding sustainable alternatives to
conventional products; but they aren’t willing to sacrifice quality.
That’s where Modern Meadow comes in: The
bio-design technology company is working to reinvent how society uses resources
and ingredients to support the world’s transition to circularity and a
Founded with the mission to reimagine how the world approaches materials,
sustainability and consumption, Modern Meadow’s approach, expertise and
technologies have evolved and expanded significantly in the past 10 years; but
its goal to develop alternative, nature-inspired materials to replace
animal-derived and petrochemical-based materials has been steadfast. While it is
just getting started on this journey, its impact so far is a testament to what
it could achieve in the future.
The company’s ethos is well articulated in its inaugural impact
report. By embracing three
key principles — take urgent climate action, maintain a balanced ecosystem,
promote circularity and responsible end of life — Modern Meadow’s technology
platform allows its business partners to create high-quality, high-performance
materials that promote environmental benefits and can be quickly scaled and
brought to market.
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Modern Meadow’s potential lies in its ability to change the way materials and
products are made with circularity and regenerative approaches at their core,
with no loss of performance or quality. Its expertise spans the selection,
design, engineering and production of proteins (via precision fermentation as
needed). With its drop-in technology platforms, companies in the textiles,
materials, personal care and biomedical industries no longer have to compromise
between sustainability and performance.
The first of these tech-application platforms, Bio-F@rm™, produces
tailormade proteins through a yeast-fermentation process. From this, vegan
Bio-Coll@gen™ proteins are harvested that can stimulate the production of
various proteins including Collagen type III — known as the ‘youth collagen’ —
in human skin cells. Ideal for beauty and skincare products, it also claims to
offer many sustainability benefits over animal-extracted collagen.
“Collagen type III is notoriously difficult to extract from animals and very
costly,” explains Ann Lee-Jeffs, Modern
Meadow’s senior director of corporate sustainability. “The process we use to
create Bio-Coll@gen from yeast is far simpler in terms of the number of
manufacturing steps used. Our process is also free from issues such as animal
welfare, unsustainable land use and biodiversity loss.”
Plant-based proteins such as those sourced from North American soy are combined
with bio-based polymers such as bio-polyurethane to create more durable
materials through the company’s Bio-Alloy™ platform. These bio-fabricated
materials are typically suited for textiles either in the consumer goods market
(for example, handbags, shoes
or the manufacturing industries (for example, car seat covers).
One of the first product applications for Bio-Alloy is BioFabbrica Bio-Tex™ — a coated textile that claims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
by over 90 percent and water consumption by over 80 percent compared to
traditional, chrome-tanned leather. The built-in flexibility of these platforms
also renders them very scalable and applicable in the real world.
“Our platforms have been designed to fit seamlessly into existing manufacturing
processes and infrastructure for easy adoption. This gives brands the freedom to
create appealing products while providing a more sustainable option,” CEO says
The company’s approach — of helping brands reduce their sustainability impacts
while meeting growing consumer demand for ethically made materials and products
— is underpinned by a nonfinancial, ESG materiality assessment to determine
where its solutions can make the greatest impact across the value chain.
By focusing on three key priorities — driving change through technology
commercialisation; exceeding stakeholder expectations by highlighting the wider
benefits of its products and technologies; and advancing the fundamentals in
environmental stewardship, transparency and governance — the company believes it
can become a powerful force for good.
“We envision that the materials we create will become the preferred solution
across a variety of uses as we move from ‘bio-replacement’ to ‘bio-better’ to
‘bio-best,’” Roggero-Lovisi says.
The interchangeability of these materials with their traditional precursors can
also help companies stay abreast of changing regulation — a case in point being
the prospect of worldwide restrictions on "forever chemicals" or
(per- or poly-fluorinated alkyl substances). As apparel brands look to phase out
the use of PFAS on, for example, waterproof garments, Modern Meadow believes it
is perfectly placed to offer safer alternatives.
The company says it has also taken great lengths to build full traceability into
its products from Lab-to-Brand™ while ensuring any performance or
environmental claims are based on sound evidence and independently verified. Its
BioFabbrica Bio-Tex product, for example, has been certified under the USDA
BioPreferred Program; while Bio-Coll@gen is certified as GMO-Free, Halal and
Several manufacturers are already collaborating with Modern Meadow to utilize
and mainstream its technology. In 2021, BioFabbrica — a partnership between
Modern Meadow and Italian textile and materials supplier Limonta — was
established to develop bio-based coated materials for various applications
including leather goods, footwear and clothing. Earlier this year, Modern Meadow
also partnered with
— a global textiles supplier to leading brands — to develop new bio-materials
including a waterproof, membrane-based material for outdoor gear.
Both ventures are supported by Modern Meadow’s innovation-to-market process,
which involves identifying unmet needs in the market for the types of products
it can offer. During product development, potential solutions are rigorously
tested against a set of sustainability criteria including material input,
composition, end-of-life attributes, performance and scalability. From this, a
scorecard is created; and a ‘hot spot’ analysis is undertaken to improve the
product’s sustainability profile before it undergoes a full life-cycle
“Ultimately, every product we develop goes through an LCA as a family,”
Lee-Jeffs explains. “This information becomes part of the product dossier that
we provide to our partners to support their own product claims.
“Sustainability currently tends to come at the expense of quality, performance
or cost — there is a need for solutions that address all three of those
factors,” she adds. “No matter how much consumers want to do what’s right for
the environment — if the quality and performance are not on par or it is too
expensive, behavioral shift is very difficult.”
It’s an approach that has paid off — as companies including
have begun to incorporate Modern Meadow’s materials into their brand portfolios.
Bringing the value chain together to offer consumers alternatives to
unsustainable materials is what the company feels it can do well; and it is
eager to work with more partners — whether it be material innovators,
manufacturers or brands — to co-create the types of solutions that will be
needed going forward.
“Creating innovation and sustainable solutions is a challenging task — and we
cannot build a bioeconomy alone,” Roggero-Lovisi says. “We are collaborating
with partners including brands to developed bio-based supply chains that design
for sustainability from the start. Together, we can create environmentally
conscious alternatives for the betterment of people and the planet.”
Published Apr 24, 2023 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Maxine Perella is an environmental journalist working in the field of corporate sustainability, circular economy and resource risk.
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.