Celine Sandberg

Celine Sandberg, left, is the founder of Agoprene. (Photo by MortenBentsson Photography)

Startup aims to take furniture sustainability up a notch… with seaweed

Bobby Dalheim//Senior Editor of Case Goods and Global Sourcing//October 9, 2023

OSLO, Norway – A small startup in Norway is hoping to bring sustainability to the furniture industry on a new level, and through an unlikely source: Seaweed.

Agoprene is an Oslo- and Copenhagen-based biotech company recently founded by Celine Sandberg that’s working to develop a sustainable alternative to the oil-based foam widely used in furniture. Seaweed, Sandberg says, is a great candidate material, as the petroleum currently used to make foam is itself a product of biomass degraded over time.

“You can, in theory, use biomass to replace petroleum,” Sandberg told Wired. “In the furniture industry, everyone knows that foam is bad for the environment, and no one wants to use it, but there are no other alternatives. I want to supply an alternative to what we have today, with no petrochemicals.”

Sandberg started Agoprene with the intention of developing a furniture foam made of biomass but didn’t yet decide on seaweed specifically. But over the pandemic, she found herself forced to source biomass from Norway only, as access to European suppliers was cut off. Norway has the second longest coastline in the world, she says, which gave her the idea of seaweed.

Agoprene has been given funding from several science-based research organizations, including around $90,000 from the Norwegian Research Council and around $525,000 from the BioInnovation Institute Venture Lab in Denmark. Per the Venture Lab funding, the company has been given access to a bigger lab, as well as support and advice for developing a business plan and hiring a larger team.

The company has developed samples of its seaweed foam, recently completing a four-week pilot production. Sandberg told Wired she has gotten inquiries from furniture manufacturers, as well as a shoemaker and a soundproofing company.

She hopes to hit the market by the end of 2023.

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