Auramo and Tahvonen’s team consists mainly of Aalto University alumni from the master’s program called Creative Sustainability, developing biodegradable, plant-based textile fillings with a regenerative angle.
— Fluff Stuff is our company; we are in the process of developing cattail seed hair into premium textile filling, the duo explains. The current fillings are most usually either polyester or down — the first being a non-renewable fossil-based one and the second a co-product of the meat industry. We see that there’s a shift to a renewable plant-based textile world. There’s a growing demand for a variation of ethical and conscious materials to fulfil human needs without compromising the boundaries of the planet or other beings.
What’s so special about cattail?
— According to Natural Resources Institute Finland LUKE, cattail is the ’supermarket of nature’ as all parts of it can be utilized. It’s a common and iconic plant, easy to recognize, familiar, and nostalgic to many. Also according to Luontoportti (a collection of species identification tools, Ed’s note), cattail is one of the indicator plants that has benefited the most from climate actions. Most importantly, the cattail plant can be used in old peat production areas and the rewetting process of peatlands. Dried peatlands are CO2 emitters, but rewetting them stops the emissions that currently make up to 60% of total agricultural emissions in Finland, Auramo and Tahvonen say. They continue:
— Cattail plants need about 20 cm of water in their growing areas. That’s why they are common in small streams and near waterways. It’s of invasive character and thus an easy perennial to grow. The sidestream biomass of stalks and leaves can be used among others in peat-free soil production. By setting up a high-value textile business around cattail, we incentivise cattail cultivation in peatland locations. Whatsmore, the plant also acts as captor of excess nutrients and urban runoff. The young plant stalks are also edible! The seeds are dispersed by the fluffy fibres we are processing into a filling material.
Who will be your clients? And what do you provide for them?
— Textile, interior, and clothing manufacturers, and we’ll provide the filling for items that need softness, insulation, and fluffiness. We look forward to partnering up with interesting textile brands that aim toward sustainable transformation. Currently, we are in the piloting and proof-of-concept phase.
Given that you are a material innovation company, have you also experimented with other materials?
— Currently, we are focused on refining our Typha filling as the peatland repurposing and just transformation is such a hot topic in Finland at the moment. But of course, there are other plant materials with good and perhaps complementing qualities. We have a special interest in researching food production sidestreams in the future. Some of our early prototypes are namely filled with buckwheat.
What’s been the most challenging when establishing this kind of company?
— As we’re working with a material that has no established supply chain yet, to kick this off. We’d also love to see more truly sustainable accelerators in the Nordics, and governments and EU supporting not only large companies — often they own shares in these themselves, making support systems resemble internal money transfers — but also young innovative companies that have the system thinking skills. The question is, are we ready to change the system? Change definitely needs some guts, the duo states. They add:
— We now need investors, suppliers, pilots, and partners of all kinds. And we also look forward to growing our dream team already this year.