Fairm uses fermentation with a fungus to make building materials from local lignocellulosic biomass.

This 'Fairm Foam' is a natural alternative for (foam) insulation in construction. In this interview Marc Postel who, together with Joost Vette, is cofounder of Fairm, tells us about Fairm. “Mycelia are the threads of a fungus. The base of our technology is that we use a natural process in which we bind shreds of plant remains with mycelium. Together, they form a composite. If you dry that, you get a material that is both light and strong, and insulates well. We see it as a pressure-resistant, form-retaining insulation material, an alternative to Styrofoam. Joost and I both started getting interest for the technology separately from each other during our studies. Me during my master's degree in Building Technology, and Joost during one of his master's projects at Industrial Design Engineering. Through a meeting in BlueCity Joost and I met each other. After that, around the summer of 2018, we started working together on circular projects using mycelium. In June 2020 we decided to officially found Fairm. We were fueled by the believe that mycelium building materials could successfully be commercialised if the right approach was used. Let's show the world that building with mycelium is possible!, was our thinking and motivation. Based on the 'official start-up theory' we can take this technology from design exhibitions to people's houses. And that's what we are currently doing”.

Questions and Challenges

“Right now, we’re in the phase making a switch from being focused on customers, to being focused on production on a pilot scale. And now we are confronted with the fact that very few people know anything about how to scale up a circular startup. Circular Factory helps with that. The route to get our factory is one with a lot of pitfalls that all cost money, time, and energy. You just want to avoid as many of those pitfalls as possible. And that is really only possible with the help of a guide, someone who has already walked that route once. There is a certain rationale involved, so to speak, when thinking about factories and about circular production. It’s very unique and rare: the parties that have built a circular factory in the Netherlands can be counted on two hands. In that sense the proposition of the program is unique and very fitting for where we are now with Fairm. As a first-time entrepreneur, it’s really a revelation when you talk to people like Lindy Hensen from PeelPioneers. When she talks about her experiences building a circular factory, we just swap out orange peels to fungi, and we have solid advice from a valuable perspective. The Circular Factory network also helps us tackle some strategic considerations. Besides this general guidance, there a few challenges we are tackling specifically. First off, we would like some help from an expert who is good with the financial models and calculations that are part of planning a circular factory. Second, advice on legal issues, like patents. There is a lot to consider there too.”

The future

“In five years, we want to have an operational factory, which can serve a significant market share of the Dutch insulation market, around 2%. My hands are also itching to have a broader product portfolio. After our first product is up and running, we would love to start bringing a second and third material based on our technology to the market. We have learned a lot from the process these first years of Fairm and would love to apply those lessons to another project again. In general, of course, we want to really change the construction industry. There is a movement of change now, like a stronger focus on building modular, but we’re not there yet, at all. So, we hope to be able to contribute to that in the future. When it comes to circular startups in general, I think it’s important to have as many upscaled circular startups in the Netherlands as possible in five years. First off, to make impact of course: an upscale has a bigger positive impact than a smaller startup. But in general, I think it’s very important that with programs like Circular Factory we create success stories. Right now, with upscaling our circular startup, we are all fighting an uphill battle, and the people that came before us like PeelPioneers fought an even steeper uphill battle. But by being successful, we can be a beacon of hope and inspire more people to walk this path. And not only inspire people to start circular startups, but also create an awareness in other layers in society, like the political field. I think success is a very important catalyst in shaping public opinion. And we need public opinion to change, in order to implement a number of measures that have a huge impact. For example, a CO2 tax. The impact of those circular factories is wonderful, but the social impact that our success can ultimately bring about, that is where most of the necessary impact will be. I hope this will happen the coming years.”



Circular Factory supporter Invest-NL about the future of circular startups in the manufacturing industry: “How can we use circular strategies to create a just and liveable society for all?”

Invest-NL is one of the supporters of the Circular Factory program. In this interview, Maud Hartstra and Guy de Sévaux discuss the importance of scaling up circular startups. “All kinds of developments are underway, which means that many more circular start-ups will be founded in the coming years. Circular Factory is designed for circular startups in the manufacturing industry that want to scale their production by building their first factory; and help them to make this factory circular. In addition to these startups, we also see on a larger scale a new focus of moving production closer to home. More and more manufacturing companies previously located in Asia and Eastern Europe are returning to Western Europe. With the Circular Factory program we want to point out to the entire value chain that making things circular and sustainable requires a different approach and mindset, but also changes in business models and new ways of financing. As far as Invest-NL is concerned, Circular Factory is coming at the right time.”

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From circular startup to circular startup with factory – recap Pitch & Plug Event 2022

On Tuesday 20 September, experts flocked to BlueCity to attend the first Pitch & Plug Event, part of the Circular Factory program by BlueCity and Tekkoo. The six participating startups pitched to the gathered crowd. This time not a shiny success story meant to sell their product, but a raw and real story about the key-issues that are currently holding them back from scaling up. Their vulnerability was rewarded with tailor-made advice. During this networking event, connections were made, feedback was given and plans were rewritten.

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