Cactus farming

Photo courtesy of Adriano Di Marti Adrian Lopez Velarde and Marte Cazarez's 14-acre cactus farm

PAGE – Looking for a new business opportunity, but live in a desert? Try cactus farming.

Two Mexican entrepreneurs have discovered a way to make leather out of cactus. The product uses include footwear, apparel, handbags, furniture and vehicle interiors.

Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez spent two years researching and developing the idea. In July 2019, they began marketing their new product under the tradename, Desserto.

According to the company website, “Adrian and Marte had the idea after working in the furniture, automotive and fashion industries where they identified that the problem of environmental pollution was very serious. As a result, they were genuinely interested in reducing environmental impact, so they decided to leave their jobs and start Adriano Di Marti, a company to focus on developing Desserto.”

They grow cactus on their 14-acre farm. The process is simple and needs little water. They trim the mature leaves from prickly pear cactus plants. Marte said it doesn’t kill the plants, “It’s just like a haircut.”  The cactus plants grow new, mature leaves every six months. The leaves are mashed into a slurry, then dried for three days to create a powder. The powder is mixed with nontoxic chemicals ingredients, then shaped into sheets with any texture or color desired.

Their cactus leather has received a lot of attention since they first showcased it October 2019 in Milan, Italy. They’ve won numerous awards, including the Samsung Design Icons AD 2020 Innovation Award.

“With this distinguished award we continue with the work of promoting and honoring those professionals who, thanks to exceptional talent and vision, improve people’s lives, while proposing a social, economic and cultural change in our country”, said María Alcocer, editorial director of Architectural Digest Mexico and Latin America.

They also received the Good Design Award Gold Accolade in Australia’s International Good Design Awards 2020. The annual Good Design Awards is Australia’s oldest and most prestigious international Awards for design and innovation with a proud history dating back to 1958. The awards celebrate the best new products and services on the Australian market, excellence in architectural design, engineering, fashion, digital and communication design, design strategy, social impact design and young designers.

More than 55 Good Design Awards Jurors evaluated each entry according to a strict set of design criteria which covers ‘good design,’ ‘design innovation,’ and ‘design impact’. Projects recognized with a Good Design Award must demonstrate excellence in good design and convince the jury they are worthy of recognition at this level.

Brandon Gien, CEO of Good Design Australia said, “Australia’s Good Design Award is more than a symbol of design excellence – it represents the hard work and dedication toward an innovative outcome that will ultimately make our lives better. These projects showcase the shear brilliance of design and the potential it has to improve our world.”

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