You might call this a puff piece, because it’s about cotton that’s just as fluffy but more sustainable than the traditional type. This “incredible cotton” comes from a startup called Galy, headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.
Galy grows its “incredible cotton” in a lab, from cells instead of plants, says Luciano Bueno, CEO and co-founder. The company recently won the annual Global Change Award from the Sweden-based H&M Foundation (named after the apparel company).
The prize comes with enrollment in a one-year Innovation Accelerator Program to connect winners with fashion industry insiders and help speed the process of bringing innovations to market.
Besides being 10 times faster than cotton grown on big farms, Galy’s lab-grown variety “can be grown anywhere, without being dependent on soil and weather conditions, and without exhausting our planet,” according to a description on the award’s website.
“The method is ten times faster, and uses less than 80% water and land while emitting only a fraction of the greenhouse gas compared to traditional cotton. The price would be the same as for the high-quality cotton on the market today.”
Galy’s proprietary process for growing cotton in the lab is pretty simple, Bueno says.
“Basically, what we do is we have a bunch of different cotton plants in our greenhouse,” he explains. “Then we cut a piece of the plant and that plant has a bunch of stem cells. The stem cells have the ability to pretty much transform into any part of the plant.”
The cells are segregated into large vessels (similar to brewing beer) full of nutrients to make the cells multiply, then into another vessel where they differentiate into fibers. “Instead of growing the whole plant, we go from the cell directly to the fiber,” Bueno says.
The process is said to be 10 times faster than traditional farming, or 18 days compared to 180 days.
Right now, Galy is still in the research and development phase, and Bueno isn’t wearing a t-shirt made from lab-grown cotton … yet. The plan is to produce yarn to sell to clothing brands.
Bueno hopes to see Galy become the new DuPont of plant-based products.
“There are plenty of companies trying to produce more sustainable biomaterials and we love them, because if they succeed, we can definitely succeed.”