PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY MONICA GUAN
Let’s start with the facts. We know that female-run companies are more successful than those run by men; we also know that climate-change innovation will be a staple of the Canadian economy going forward. Yet women make up only 10 percent of Canada’s cleantech founders; and according to ECO Canada, the country lags far behind in global cleantech market share. Given that civilization has a finite window to avoid environmental disaster, there’s no better time than now to flip the facts.
Today, MaRS and RBC announced the inaugural Women in Cleantech Accelerator cohort, 10 tech leaders embarking on a 12-month journey to develop the next generation of climate-change solutions.
“This cohort includes some of the most exciting cleantech companies from across the country, including innovative new bio-based materials, digital twins for assessing environmental risks, technology to give electric vehicle batteries new life, and more” said Jane Kearns, VP, Growth Services, MaRS. “We’re excited to put the full power of MaRS behind this group of entrepreneurs to help them grow their companies into global players that are solving some of the world’s most intractable environmental problems.”
The Women in Cleantech Accelerator members come from across Canada, with half of them representing BIPOC communities. Through the program, they will gain access to advisory support, mentorship and marketing opportunities, as well networks of potential investors and customers.
Meet the 10 female entrepreneurs set to revolutionize Canada’s cleantech scene.
What her company does: As founder and CEO of Mississauga’s Ecosystem Informatics, Shirook Ali has developed technology to measure greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, air quality and meteorological data for industries and jurisdictions with strong environmental targets.
Why it’s important: You can’t mitigate GHGs if you can’t measure them. The problem is that current solutions are generally expensive, immobile and inaccurate. Ali’s devices are cloud-based and A.I.-powered, which allows her team to monitor the environment in any setting with far greater accuracy and coverage.
What her company does: Myra Arshad and her team at ALT TEX transform food waste supplied from manufacturers into polyester-like, biodegradable, carbon-neutral textiles. One shirt produced from her fabric diverts one kilogram of food waste from landfills, nine kilograms of carbon emissions from the air, and four grams of microplastics from the oceans, she says.
Why it’s important: The fashion industry is projected to create more than 25 percent of the world’s carbon emissions by 2050. It also contributes to 20 percent of global industrial water pollution and 35 percent of all ocean plastic. Closed-loop products such as those made by ALT TEX can completely change how clothes are made, purchased and disposed of.
What her company does: Natalie Ashdown is director of operations at Evoco, the first company to achieve third-party certification for its foam materials, which are more than 70-percent bio-based. The potential to upgrade foam-based industries is huge, as the product can be found in everything from the soles of shoes to the seats of cars.
Why it’s important: While non-petroleum foams do exist for purchase, their bio-based content rarely exceeds 30 percent and quickly deteriorates. Evoco’s foams avoid petroleum and toxic ingredients; it also uses microbes that foster biodegradability in landfill and compost settings.
What her company does: At RUNWITHIT Synthetics, founder and CEO Myrna Bittner assesses environmental risks using digital twins — of buildings, utilities and even entire cities. This allows clients to design, optimize and maintain complex systems with innovations such as microgrids, automated vehicles and response systems for natural disasters.
Why it’s important: Headquartered in Sherwood Park, Alta., RUNWITHIT’s tech is locally-focused, meaning it considers the geography, demographics, psychographics and citizen behaviour of a given region. And this is particularly helpful for planners looking to democratize data and personalize policy for their constituents.
What her company does: Liven Proteins takes lost food and turns it into new, animal-free protein using fermentation. Though produced from plant-based, raw material, co-founder Fei Luo asserts her product provides the same nutritional, textural and functional properties as meat and fish.
Why it’s important: The Toronto-based startup’s environmental mission is threefold. First, scale the sustainable protein supply to meet demand. Next, tackle food waste (roughly 60 percent of all food in Canada is lost or wasted, for example). Finally, make sustainable protein mainstream and foster a circular economy in the process.
What her company does: Calgary’s ReWatt Power fights climate change from an unexpected angle — climate accounting and monetization. Founded by Prageet Nibber, a trained accountant, the venture uses machine learning to optimize financial transactions and interact with vast networks of buyers and sellers.
Why it’s important: Economies, especially those trying to be green while making a buck, are complex. ReWatt Power’s tech is informed by proven methodologies and standards, with an expert understanding of various laws, jurisdictions, climate offsets, etc.
What her company does: Sumreen Rattan is co-founder and chief operating officer of energy-storage champion Moment Energy. Based in Surrey, B.C., Moment Energy relieves the grid at peak times by repurposing and integrating second-life electric-vehicle (EV) batteries.
Why it’s important: EV batteries have an average of 80-percent life remaining when retired from an automobile — and the EV market is getting larger by the day. Laws around the sustainable use of these batteries are inevitable, and Rattan and her employees want to help cities and automobile corporations get ahead of the curve, while also protecting civic infrastructure and doing right by the planet.
What her company does: Magnetometry is one of humanity’s oldest technologies, allowing early explorers to use compasses and chart the great unknown. Led by Rachel Taylor, the brilliant minds at SBQuantum have developed a platform for building precise, localized magnetic models of the earth to better understand the environment.
Why it’s important: This innovation can do wonders for mining companies looking to reduce the time, cost and environmental impact of exploration. It can also power vehicle-navigation systems in instances of extreme weather.
What her company does: Heather Ward is founder and president of Hyperion Global Energy. Headquartered in Ottawa, the company has created a modular drop-in unit (based in a shipping container) that captures CO2 emissions from heavy industry and converts them into valuable materials.
Why it’s important: This is another easily replicable innovation that fights climate change while making money. Ward estimates that each unit is capable of removing up to 99 percent of CO2 from industrial smokestack emissions.
What she does: Victoria Xu co-founded CleanInnoGen with the goal of helping achieve a net-zero society. Her startup produces green hydrogen from waste heat with lower temperature requirements, reduced electricity and greater tolerance to unfiltered water.
Why it’s important: CleanInnoGen’s tech has potential to make a huge impact as it provides great benefits to industrial clients. The company handles evaluation, installation and operation of equipment, while the client receives affordable, sustainably produced hydrogen and oxygen, fuel-cost savings and carbon credits.
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