Microbial biopigments for more sustainable fashion industry


The Brazil-based start-up AIPER has developed an innovative process for production of microbial biopigments that can be applied in textile dyeing and cosmetics. AIPER`s product is a sustainable replacement for synthetic dyes which are often toxic and negatively affecting the environment. On the contrary, their innovation is biodegradable and non-toxic. For this reason, AIPER, who was one of the Open Labs Brazil winners, has been chosen as the ISC3 Start-up of the Month for August 2022.

Year of Foundation:

November 2021

Addresses the following SDGs:

SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and SDG 14 (Life below Water)

written start-up name "AIPER" on black background
AIPER's logo
samples of textile with a dye application in petri dishes
Application test of AIPER's innovation
Brazlian start-up team posing for picture un the working space in a lab
AIPER's team

Desire for change in the fashion industry

AIPER was created by Ailton Pereira (Founder, CEO/CSO) during his Master's degree studies in Biotechnology at the State University of Londrina in southern Brazil in November 2021. Ailton graduated first in Fashion Design. Due to his degree in Fashion Design he was able to understand the big problems that fashion industry faces.
“Despite being one of the industry sectors offering employment opportunities worldwide and contributing to economic growth, there is the "other side of the coin" "
, Ailton explains,
“The textile industry is one of the industries that most pollutes the environment and consumes more natural resources, such as water, for example.”
After graduating, Ailton had a clothing brand, but he wasn't satisfied with being just another one. He wanted to do something relevant which could contribute to reducing the negative impact of the fashion industry. This desire led him to seek further studies, so he started his Masters in Biotechnology. At that time, he already knew that he would found a company once he will advance with his research. The initial idea was to develop a bio-based fabric, but the university did not have the necessary structure and equipment. Ailton started then to look into natural dyes, as they were often mentioned as a sustainable trend, but the problem was that they fade easily. Together with his advisor, Ailton decided to conduct research on biopigments produced by microorganisms to see if that was a viable solution. And so, the idea of AIPER was born with the purpose of contributing to a more sustainable fashion industry. Today, the start-up team has 8 members qualified in diverse areas of technology, innovation, operation and marketing.

Microbial biopigments

AIPER`s innovation is a process for the production of microbial biopigments for industrial application. According to Ailton, compared to a more well-known process, it could be described similar to beer production. Instead of the drink as the end product, AIPER produces biopigment that can be applied in textile dyeing and cosmetics, for example. However, the optimization of the right parameters such as concentrations and components of the culture medium, suitable temperature, ideal rotation and pH, is more complex and required lot of research and testing to obtain high productivity. Up to now, AIPER was able to reach 3 times higher production compared to numbers published in the literature for available similar products. With this result, patenting the technology was a no brainer to the start-up. AIPER`s product is a sustainable replacement for synthetic dyes which are highly toxic and cause many environmental problems. Their innovation is biodegradable, non-toxic and has some assets of industrial interest such as UV protection, and antimicrobial properties. In addition, AIPER contributes to the circular bioeconomy because some of the nutrients that the microorganisms consume are agricultural residues that would be usually discarded. Even though, the data evaluation has not been finalized yet, there are indication that the product helps to reduce the use of natural resources such as water and energy during industrial production. The synthetic dye, aside from being often hazardous, needs many auxiliary chemicals during the textile dyeing process.
“After dyeing, a lot of water is used to wash and remove all these chemicals from the fibers. Approximately 15-30% of dyes are not fixed leading to disposal in textile post-dyeing. This leads to the loss of raw materials and money, plus one more item to be dealt with later. Due to the high cost of wastewater treatment, some factories simply dispose it, affecting fauna, flora and human health,”
Ailton explains. Using AIPER`s biopigment, companies do not need to change their factory structure. In their process, only two "green" chemicals are used and, as it is a biodegradable pigment with high fixation, they have a simpler, cheaper and easier residual treatment process to be applied.

In the future, AIPER plans to make a manifest addressing the real data of their positive impact on the environment and the linkage to the SDGs. As Ailton stated:
“This is very important to us because "sustainability" is in our DNA, we were born with this objective in mind. Our mission is to make a meaningful contribution to the change we need in the world! “

Next up at AIPER

After winning the Open Labs Brazil competition, AIPER was selected for an acceleration program called "Business Development" at BiotechTown, an accelerator specializing in life sciences and biotechnology. They helped them to elaborate a plan encompassing the topics of market, technology, team and funding. Their main objectives in the near future are scaling production to industrial, test and validate their MVP with partner companies in the areas of textiles and cosmetics and attract investment for production via partners or assembly their own industrial production plant. With their innovative solution, AIPER, who joined the ISC3 Global Start-up Service in August 2021, contributes to SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and SDG 14 (Life below Water).