Canada is warming at twice the rate as the rest of the world, and we need to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions as quickly as possible. The good news is, the country also has a powerhouse ecosystem of climate-tech companies capable of setting us on the right course.
Today, Mission from MaRS: Climate Impact Challenge announced its first cohort of Climate Champions: 10 Canadian ventures working in the carbon-intensive industries of energy, real estate and transportation. Projections show that, assuming a market penetration of 0.1 percent, the adoption of the ventures’ technology in their respective (global, US or North American) markets could lead to an annual reduction of close to 41 megatons of CO2e emissions by the year 2030.
“Mission from MaRS is the first challenge of its kind in North America and should really be celebrated,” says Seth Sheldon, director of impact analytics at Rho AI, the firm that measured the GHG-reduction potential of these cleantech solutions. “Startups generally want to make the world a better place by putting science behind social impact, so we need to help them get there.”
Sheldon sees the program as an opportunity to “cut through the nonsense” of various impact-measurement models. In partnership with Boston-based company Prime Coalition, Rho AI developed the software tool, CRANE, which compares two counterfactual worlds — one in which a given company’s tech exists, and one in which it doesn’t. What this provides is a reasonable range of numbers that shows the potential impact of that technology from which you can build trust and consensus.
“We’re living in a crisis, and I don’t want a lack of certainty to prevent people from making appropriate climate decisions,” Sheldon says.
Impact assessment was a key part of the selection process for Mission from MaRS. Of the 74 ventures that applied to the program, 36 shortlisted firms underwent impact modelling, conducted by CRANE research fellows. The 10 selected ventures will receive advisory services, as well as connections to capital and customers.
And time is, indeed, running out before the damage becomes irreversible. But Canada has the necessary innovations, talent and resources to flip this emergency on its head.
Meet the Mission from MaRS Climate Champions.
Headquarters: Squamish, B.C.
What it does: Carbon Engineering pulls CO2 directly from the air, trapping it forever underground, or repurposing it for low-carbon fuels, chemicals and materials. Serving governments and businesses, the company is a high-quality source for carbon offsets and net-zero targets.
The latest: The startup recently landed deals with high-profile clients Shopify and the Government of the United Kingdom, all of this building on its U.S.$68-million raise in 2019.
The potential: A single Carbon Engineering facility, which is scalable and can be located in any setting, can capture as much carbon in one year as 40 million trees.
What it does: Extract Energy has created a heat engine with memory titanium alloys that captures low-grade waste heat — affordable and emissions-free — for recycled power generation.
The latest: In 2020, Extract Energy grew from 16 to 22 employees, secured funding from Sustainable Development Canada, and was selected to the Breakthrough Energy Solutions Canada cohort.
The potential: This technology allows industry behemoths (manufacturers, food processors, power plants, etc.) to handle energy needs in-house, relieving the grid and becoming self-sustaining in the process.
What it does: Opus One Solutions tackles climate change by promoting mass electrification in utility companies — clients that literally serve billions of people. The startup does this by layering software over existing equipment to integrate renewable energy from solar and wind power into the grid.
The latest: Fresh off being named to the Global Cleantech 100 for the fourth straight year, the startup helped build Canada’s first smart microgrid community.
The potential: Because Opus One Solutions got into the smart-grid game early, the company’s technology is well-positioned to become the international standard for utilities upgrades.
Headquarters: London, Ont.
What it does: StormFisher builds and operates facilities that recycle food, water, energy and waste into renewable natural gases and organic-based fertilizers.
The latest: In May, the Canadian Biogas Association named StormFisher’s London plant its project of the year. The facility takes food waste from municipalities, local restaurants and food manufacturing plants, and transforms it into fuel for utilities — and Hamilton’s first carbon-negative bus.
The potential: StormFisher hopes to displace diesel as a transportation fuel and fossil-based gases for building heat with renewable natural gas.
What it does: Currently serving more than 160 buildings in 15 countries, BrainBox AI maximizes a building’s heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) system with its deep-learning, cloud-based platform.
The latest: This past April, the Report on Business named BrainBox AI co-founder and chief technology officer, Jean-Simon Venne, a 2021 Canadian executive of the year for his “outstanding leadership” in bringing the startup’s product to market.
The potential: Such an innovation can decrease the carbon footprint of an HVAC system by 20 to 40 percent, as well as reduce energy costs for building owners by up to 25 percent.
What it does: Peak Power’s A.I.-powered tech predicts electricity consumption to help clients save money; it also powers buildings in peak hours with batteries to relieve the grid; and it turns electric vehicles and other distributed energy resources into storage assets for buildings by charging and discharging these resources when needed.
The latest: Peak Power is the proud owner of a $12-million financing round led by the Atmospheric Fund. The company is using the money to further its expansion globally.
The potential: Imagine a world where old buildings are retrofitted into self-sustaining power plants that sell excess electricity to neighbouring jurisdictions.
What it does: Stash Energy builds air-source heat pumps that store energy in off-peak hours, and comfortably warm and cool homes without relying on fossil fuels. The product offers up to 70-percent cost savings compared to electric-baseboard and heating-oil systems.
The latest: The startup is leading a pilot project for Housing Nova Scotia, funded by the province’s Department of Energy and Mines, designed to test energy-efficient winter-heating systems.
The potential: The company can partner with utilities, providing them with tech to remotely control and aggregate systems when demand fluctuates.
What it does: Effenco offers hybrid and fully-electric solutions for heavy-duty trucks that would typically run on diesel.
The latest: Soon after receiving the coveted Solar Impulse Efficient Solution label for high standards of profitability and sustainability this spring, Effenco began retrofitting dozens of garbage trucks for the New York City Department of Sanitation.
The potential: In jurisdictions where electricity comes from a clean source, Effenco’s hybrid-electric solution reduces emissions by up to 30 percent; its fully-electric system reduces emissions by up to 100 percent. Plus, the tech can also be applied to trucks and buses working outside heavy industry.
What it does: Flash Forest uses proprietary unmanned aerial vehicle technology to reforest ecosystems. The method is 10 times faster than traditional techniques, allowing two operators to plant roughly 100,000 seed pods a day.
The latest: Back in April, the startup received $1.8 million from Emissions Reductions Alberta and $3.65 million from private investors to reforest the province’s boreal areas.
The potential: With a planting density of 1,000 to 2,000 trees per hectare, the Flash Forest team estimates that their tech will plant more than one billion trees by 2028.
What it does: Like Uber for buses, Pantonium turns public transportation into an on-demand service. By taking buses off fixed routes, the company increases ridership, reduces wear and tear on vehicles and roads, takes cars off streets, and saves money.
The latest: Pantonium projects have been popping up in smaller municipalities across North America throughout the pandemic. CEO Remi Desa’s next mission? Getting big-city players to think big as well.
The potential: In one month of operation in Belleville, Pantonium’s tech boosted patronage by 300 percent, decreased per-vehicle mileage by 30 percent, and serviced 70 percent more “bus stops” than the original fixed route.
Want to help build a sustainable and prosperous planet? Join Mission from MaRS.