Keel Labs’ Seaweed Yarn, Backed by Hong Kong Tycoon Li Ka-shing, Can Tackle Fashion Pollution

Published by
South China Morning Post
January 26, 2023

Li Ka-shing-backed start-up Keel Labs is spinning yarn from seaweed to transform the textile industry and tackle pollution in the fashion sector’s supply chain.

The North Carolina-based start-up, founded in 2017 by designers Tessa Callaghan, Aleksandra Gosiewski and Aaron Nesser, has developed a yarn from kelp to replace the traditional fibres used in garments and textiles.

“We’re able to [extract] various polymers from seaweeds, and create proprietary chemistries that turn this polymer into something that is no longer just a wet, juicy, sloppy piece of seaweed,” said [Tessa] Callaghan. “It’s a functional fibre that looks, feels and performs, like the materials that we’re used to. “The environmental benefits that come from just growing seaweed, from carbon sequestration to water filtration, decreasing ocean acidification, the list goes on.”

The firm, which has 22 full-time employees, is working on expanding and scaling its production capabilities. It hopes to commercialise the product so that it can be integrated in international supply chains including in Asian countries like China where many brands currently source and manufacture clothing and textiles. “We will certainly be fundraising and looking for additional funding in the coming 18 to 24 months,” said Callaghan.

The start-up raised US$2.2 million in seed funding in November 2018, led by Horizons Ventures, the private investment arm of Hong Kong’s best known billionaire, Li Ka-shing. Last June, the start-up closed its US$13 million series A round from venture capital firms including the Collaborative Fund and H&M CO:LAB, the investment arm of H&M Group.

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