Plants could be genetically engineered to produce both food and textiles at the same time, claims Carole Collet, researcher of innovative textile technologies and TFRC Deputy Director at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. Through her BioLace project, she biologically reprograms plants to produce both fruits and lace samples from their roots.
The BioLace project explores how cellular programming can affect the morphogenesis of plant systems and combines synthetic biology and design to revolutionize future fabrication of textiles. The new technology would combine food production with textile production, with plants replacing complex, costly and less sustainable textile machinery. The plants are transformed into living machines that need only sun and water to operate.
Collet believes that by 2050, it will be possible to grow “hyper-engineered’ plants in greenhouses. Their roots would be submerged into mineral solutions such as those used for the tomato plant, which contains lycopene, a nutrient that protects the skin from sunburn. In this scenario, basil plants would be able to produce at the same time anti-viral medicines and perfumed lace. An engineered strawberry bush would produce strawberries with higher levels of vitamin C and antioxidants.
The project is currently exhibited at Future Textile 3 in Lille, France, which showcases innovative projects that combine science, technology, design and fashion.