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Startup makes sustainable products from invasive species

EcoNote | May 27, 2024 | By: Seshadri Ramkumar, Ph.D.

INVERSA, a Tampa, Fla.-based startup, is showing that sustainable, fashionable goods can be produced from invasive and harmful species. Invasive species are responsible for the extinction of 60 percent of valuable native species.

INVERSA was founded in 2022 by two brothers and a schoolmate in an American entrepreneurial success story, which often happens in information technology and biotechnology fields. In the summer of 2011, brothers Kahan and Aarav Chavda, while still high school students in Dallas, Texas, came to Lubbock and conducted brief summer research on cotton nonwovens in Texas Tech’s Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory. The results from the brief study were presented as a poster at the 2011 TAPPI conference in Atlanta, and the research “curiosity” sparked during the effort blossomed as they continued their studies.

Ultimately, the Chavda brothers co-founded INVERSA with school mate Roland Salatino. Lionfish, Dragonfin and Python are invasive species that are threats to native fish and other organisms in the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi river and Florida Everglades, respectively. The entrepreneurs have found a means to use the skin of these invasive species to develop shoes, handbags and other fashion products.

An individual Lionfish lays about 6 million eggs per year, which kills small fish, and supports the growth of algae suffocating coral reefs, says Aarav Chavda, stressing the importance of sustainable materials to positively impact the world. Acquiring the materials for large scale production may be difficult, but “We have been successful,” he says. “Ecosystem protection resonates well with consumers, and the reception for our products has been exciting.”

The new company believes that “sustainable fashion can heal the world.” It is pleasing to see how research initiated by high school students at the Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory is spearheading start-up culture in sustainable products.

Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar is a professor at the Nonwovens & Advanced Materials Laboratory, Texas Tech University, Lubbock. 

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