Interview with DESSERTO
Please tell us a little about yourselves.
I am the Co-CEO and Co-Founder of ADRIANO DI MARTI, which goes beyond the needs of the leather goods market, offering high quality materials made with sustainable alternatives. My key role has been researching and developing the patented cactus-based biomaterial as an alternative to leather - Desserto for the fashion industry and Deserttex for the automotive industry - along with business development in those markets. I also oversee the sustainability along the value chain and the material production, marketing administration, product certification submissions, and the company's global expansion by establishing new production units and commercial operations.
How did you discover that you could create a vegan leather alternative with cactus?
After two years of research and development, and a genuine interest in reducing environmental impact, we finished a marketable cactus-based material as an alternative to leather. Its trade name is Desserto®, and it has competitive features compared to animal or synthetic leather, like sustainability, performance, and aesthetics.
Where do you source your cactus?
We work with farmers in Mexico to identify open fields that are not usable for other agricultural purposes due to the lack of fertility. That is where we plant our organic cactus. These cultivations do not have any input from agrochemicals or irrigation, which allow us to significantly reduce the environmental impact of the initial stage of our value chain and raw materials. It takes approximately 1 year for a new plantation to grow enough to be harvested every 6 to 8 months. The mature cactus pads are collected, and the plant itself is left unharmed to enable repeated harvesting. The cactus is a very resilient crop - it can handle low temperatures during winter and its thorns are very small, so it’s easier and safer for our farming team to harvest. The cactus plantation is perennial, meaning we only plant one time, and the plantation can last for up to 8 years. During this time the organic plantations help to enrich the microflora and microfauna of soil, so after 8 years when we move to another area, we are able to leave behind a much fertile soil that can be used for other crops.
Please describe the process of creating cactus leather.
We extract proteins and fibers from the cactus pads to formulate our bio-resin which then is sent to our Mexican or Italian production units. Each production site can produce up to 200,000 linear meters per month, and we export to more than 80 countries. Each facility has recycling processes to avoid waste and discharges to the environment.
We have performed an early Life Cycle Assessment to better understand the sustainable benefits of our products in comparison with leather and synthetics like conventional polyurethanes.
Is there any waste produced during the process, and what do you do with it?
There is no waste as the cactus byproduct is directed to the food industry in an increased value form.
Does the Desserto cactus material biodegrade?
Desserto is partially biodegradable.
Why is it sustainable compared to traditional leather and other Vegan materials?
In a nutshell, some of the most important sustainable benefits of using cactus as a biomaterial can be summarized as following:
1. Biodiversity amelioration in the region.
2. Land Use Change (LUC) reversion.
3. Enrichment of soil micr-flora and microfauna through native and typical organic cactus afforestation.
4. Huge savings in water as no irrigation is applied.
5. Environmental preservation as no agrochemicals are used like herbicides or pesticides.
6. Cactus is left unharmed to enable repeated harvesting from the same plant.
7. Energy savings by relying on renewable energy through several processes.
8. Full vision and traceability to ensure sustainable practices throughout complete value chain.
9. Technological enhancements at the farms.
We were the first to collaborate in creating a sneaker made out of cactus material. How have you improved the performance of DESSERTO to obtain this 2.0 version?
It’s been a long journey to develop a high- performance sneaker material, and collaboration with a wide group of engineers from our Mexican and Italian production units has made this possible.
Is the 2.0 version certified?
All of our materials are certified as vegan and sustainable since they all share the same roots.
With the launch of your new material, Dessertex, we've seen that you've entered the automotive world. Why the automotive sector?
Our materials are often distinguished by their great softness at the touch while offering high performance for a wide range of applications which go from footwear to garments, accessories, handbags, furniture, interior design, panels, and even automotive components. Our products can also be customized on aesthetics like texture, thickness, and color. Desserto keeps an excellent reputation in the industry for being a sustainable solution provider.
What's in the future for Desserto?
Our company, from its conception, has been committed to an ambitious objective to become the lowest carbon solution provider in the biomaterials industry.
What's your favorite silhouette among our new collab? As a raw material supplier, we understand that collaboration with brands is key to bringing responsible innovations to the market. We have found CLAE a great partner to pursue our sustainability goals.