From agricultural waste to textile fibre – Spinnova becomes part of Fortum’s bio-based ecosystem

Spinnova and Finnish energy company Fortum have entered into a disruptive strategic partnership within Fortum’s bio-based business focusing on resource efficiency. Their objective is to turn agricultural waste streams into textile quality fibre with Spinnova’s technology.

This partnership is a great match between several megatrends: the energy industry’s shift away from fossil fuels, the textile industry’s need for sustainable materials and cellulose innovation sprung from Finland’s legacy forest industry. Fortum launched its new strategic priorities in 2018, which include building options for significant new business such as producing high-value products from agro residues and woody biomass to improve resource efficiency.

– Spinnova’s disruptive technology is unique in the world. We are delighted to be able to pilot it together using innovative raw materials, especially agro residues, says Heli Antila, Vice President, Biobased solutions at Fortum.  

The technology that Spinnova has invented for spinning textile fibre out of wood-based cellulose is also equally suitable for cellulosic waste streams. Spinnova has made initial trials with Fortum’s biomasses with very promising results. This phase of the partnership is funded by a programme run by Business Finland, a public agency providing research funding to Finnish companies, to advance bio and circular economy.

Locally available waste-based raw materials have huge potential in the circular economy. For example, a massive amount of straw is burned in Asian countries, causing significant emissions that contribute to climate change. In the future, the biomass could instead be used to produce energy and textile fibre.

– This would be resource efficiency at its best, also creating a value added product that is attractive to the consumer, while mitigating climate change. We’re very excited about this collaboration and its environmental impact potential for the future, says Spinnova’s CEO Janne Poranen.

Spinnova and Fortum could disrupt the use of natural cellulosics such as cotton that’s a significant strain to both land and table waters. If a cotton field was replaced with wheat for example, and just 30% of the straw is utilized in a bio-based ecosystem, the same amount of textile fibres as from the cotton field could be captured with much less water use. This would also answer the world’s biggest problem; a growing population that needs more and more natural resources to produce both food and clothes.

Spinnova is also in the process of commercializing its virgin wood-based cellulose based fibre product, according to plans with its other strategic partner, pulp producer Suzano. Spinnova’s raw material commitment is to only use FSC-certified wood or waste streams.

Fortum’s press release

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