Agromodus

Agromodus: Cultivating a sustainable bio-based industry

Deventer, NetherlandsEthiopia
Year Founded:
2015
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The garment industry in Ethiopia is growing. Agromodus sketches an integrated holistic concept of an advantageous production system, in which collaborating parties that are willing to indulge in good practice, have a great opportunity to provide a sustainable supply for an increasing market demand.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if... the clothes that you wear not only benefit you, but also the ever-evolving world that you live in?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

To meet the increasing demand for textile, Ethiopia is reforming its bio-safety laws and has dedicated huge areas of land to (GM) cotton production, thus risking very high inputs of water and pesticides, environmental problems and loss of biodiversity and farmers sovereignty. Ethiopia already suffers from droughts and soil erosion. Land degradation reduces farm productivity and is becoming a major constraint to future growth and development.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Agromodus aims to create a sustainable bio-based textile industry, by implementing the cultivation of industrial hemp as an eco-friendly alternative to cotton. The high yielding, low maintenance and soil improving qualities of hemp make it an excellent cashcrop opportunity for local farmers. Aspiring a low carbon footprint, bio-heat derived from switchgrass pellets will be used in the processing stage. Switchgrass has been identified as a high-potential energy crop. Its roots sequester carbon in the pedosphere, maintain and increase soil organic matter and prevent erosion. The processing of hemp to textile fiber produces by-products that can be used to further extent and diversify the bio-based industry.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Using hemp for textiles not only benefits the environment and the people in the production-chain, but also the consumer. It provides all the warmth and softness of a natural textile but with a superior durability. The Dutch label ‘Hoodlamb’ realizes hemp’s potential and makes a good example of how the solution works. They choose to produce their collection in China (world’s largest producer of hemp fiber) to support local farmers and the regional textile industry. The hemp is hand sown and harvested on small family farms. The garments are sewn in facilities with clean and safe working conditions. Involvement of the local communities, corporations and factory partners make premium quality and high facility standards continue to be upheld.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The many advantages of hemp over cotton are omnipresent in various literature, articles and scientific papers. Agromodus transforms the potential of a hemp-derived textile production chain from theory to practice. To practically demonstrate that there is a fair and sustainable way to produce clothes, we initiated the project by cultivating a trial plot of industrial hemp. We did this on organic land without use of any inputs but rain. Local farmers were impressed that hemp indeed suppressed weeds. We showed how fast hemp grows and harvested a high yield. In the next step, the raw hemp is processed using steam-explosion technology. Part of the project is cultivate switchgrass for bio-energy on large marginal lands. This will restore the soil and is an effective measure against erosion. Therefore, our near future is to implement Agromodus in Ethiopia, where the impact can be significant.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Although hemp was commonly used to make e.g. clothes in history, it is now notorious as a drug. After it was economically outcompeted by cheap but unsustainable synthetic fiber, there came an end to the cultivation of hemp. Except for the narcotic strain of the hemp plant, which led to a prohibition of hemp in general. Nowadays, polluting cotton is the standard raw material. In some countries, political reforms will be needed first in order to make legal way for a green alternative. The concept is universally implementable. It requires an out-of-the-box-mentality to try something different.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

On paper, the hemp for textile business case looks potential, but field research is needed to determine the viability of the concept for a project location in particular. This requires funding. Also the steam-explosion production facility needs investment. After initial vestments have been made, the project is financial sustainable since it makes use of renewable resources and supplies for a growing market.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The Dutch company Stexfibers sees the same problem with the modern textile industry and works on the same solution. The difference is that Stexfibers is solely active in hemp processing. In Recent years a group of engineers in cooperation with the University of Wageningen adjusted the existing technique of steam explosion in such a way that hemp fibers after treatment could be spun on existing spinning equipment. This resulted in high quality textiles. Agromodus has a holistic approach, including the sustainable supply of raw material.
Team

Founding Story

Two years ago, I was sitting in a bar with a friend from university. With a shared study background in sustainable development, we were expressing our concerns about how the world is being polluted. We wanted to offer solutions, hence we started our own consultancy. I’ve had an internship in the Canadian industrial hemp industry in 2007, so I was aware of the qualities of hemp. News stories about Ethiopia becoming the ‘new Bangladesh’ made us aware of the erosion problem in Ethiopia. In this light we created Agromodus.

Team

Being still in its infant pilot stage, the project currently only involves the two founding partners. Both of us hold a BSc degree Tropical Forestry, major Rural Development. When the project starts in Ethiopia, I will stay in the project location to coordinate the implementation and extent the project team with local participants.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Raw Materials, Manufacturing.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Corporations, Designers, Farmer or Farmer Associations, Factory Owners, Researchers, Retailers - Mass-merchandise Chain, Supplier - subcontractor, Trading Companies.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Labor Rights (i.e. Collective Bargaining, etc.).

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Capacity Building, Data, Media, Training.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Hidden from View: Conditions in Forests, Farms, and Factories are Only Visible to a Select Few, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Disrupt Business as Usual: Target Key Players Who Can Influence the Bottom Line, Transform the Chain into a Web: Link Unlikely Sectors that Open New Pathways to Sustainability.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?

yes

If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?

N/A

Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?
● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?
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