New wave food technology
More than 99 per cent of businesses in Canada are small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). As a major driver of the economy, SME leaders play a critical role embedding practices that contribute to the social good for all Canadians.
One weekend in 2008, after cleaning algae from his cottage shoreline, Steve Martin read an article on turning algae into biofuel and connected the dots: algae had a commercial value. How hard could it be, he wondered, to grow large amounts of the green stuff so hated by cottage owners? The following Monday he began experimenting on his family property, growing the organisms in pails and sinks.
Fast-forward to 2019 and Steve Martin is CEO of Pond Technologies, an Ontario-based company that harnesses carbon dioxide (CO2) from industry smokestacks to grow algae organisms to be used as protein for animal feed and nutraceutical products. The company is currently building an algae plant that captures Stelco’s emissions and is exploring interest from other manufacturers in Canada.
While Pond is navigating the classic chicken-and-egg dilemma – big corporate buyers are reluctant to commit to include the ingredient in their products without a guaranteed supply, while expansion financing depends on firm sales orders – the company is forging ahead with trials using the algae in a range of applications such as vegan protein and natural food colouring, says marketing manager Philipp Garber.
Pond’s growth system uses proprietary lighting technology and an artificial intelligence-backed controls system to induce a constant algal bloom. The recent acquisition of British Columbia-based Regenurex Health, a manufacturer of antioxidant supplements, allows Pond to demonstrate the technology in a commercial setting.
“Our objective is to establish algae as a pillar of the new low-carbon economy by harnessing nature and technology to reduce industrial emissions and provide nutrient-rich ingredients for food and animal feed. We are part of a new wave of food-tech companies that are working to radically reduce the ecological footprint of our food system while providing healthy, nutritious and affordable products that tackle food insecurity,” says Mr. Garber.
Pond’s defined purpose “to make the world a better place” is seen in its short- and long-term plans. In the short term, the company will add a range of biotechnology jobs in the Toronto region while demonstrating the role CO2 plays as a resource in the circular/low-carbon economy.
“Pond can also serve as a bridge between political groups who have opposing ideas on how to tackle climate change and carbon policy,” says Mr. Garber.
In the long term, Pond envisages impacting the lives of Canadians by supplying industrial volumes of natural ingredients for the food industry while simultaneously providing an additional revenue stream to secure local production in industries like cement, steel or manufacturing.
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