December 26, 2011

Turning algae into energy gets Halifax company on award shortlist

Three N.S. firms in running for green technology prize

A Halifax biotechnology company is hoping green slime will help its business take flight.

Marine Arctic & Antarctic Technologies Inc. is one of 10 startups that made the shortlist of the Nova Scotia Clean Tech Open, Innovacorp announced Wednesday.

The competition’s goal is to assist a clean technology company in getting established in the province.

Marine Arctic & Antarctic Technologies is developing technology to mass produce micro-algae for use in biofuel and other products.

"It’s like slop,” CEO Mather Carscallen said of the raw material during an interview.

“Some of it smells bad. Some of it doesn’t. It’s pretty much every different smell, shape, colour you could ever imagine.”

The algae would be incubated in a bioreactor that could vary in size and designed to be cost effective, he said.

Carscallen, a doctoral student at Dalhousie University, formed the company in the summer of 2010 in partnership with Neil Ross.

Carscallen, whose research focuses on polar conservation, said algae has huge potential as a source of biofuel.

“It grows in so many conditions across the globe. With so many strains of micro-algae out there, we can actually select (them), depending on what we’re looking for.”

Once the oil is extracted for fuel, the byproducts could be used in various products, including cosmetics, nutritional supplements and animal feed, he said.

The Clean Tech Open competition, launched in September, attracted 65 submissions from companies around the world.

The other companies still in the running are:

Amarok Industries, Halifax — Zero-emission electric motorcycles
Algae Energy, Halifax — Oil extraction from algae for use in biodiesel production
TocardoInternational BV, Netherlands — Tidal energy
Rentricity Inc., New York — Hydrokinetic energy recovery systems for the water and waste water industries
Pohuhvat LTD, Serbia — Tidal turbines and mobile underwater platforms
PearlLED Inc., California — LED light bulbs
Nitro-Turbodyne Inc., California — Low-to-medium power generation system
GridManager A/S, Denmark — Environmental business intelligence
CleanHydro Inc., Florida — Hydrogen production technology

For the second round of competition, the companies have to submit a full business plan by Feb.1 and pitch their ventures to a judging panel later that month.

The winner, to be announced in April, receives $100,000 in cash, a $200,000 negotiable seed investment, mentoring and in-kind business services, including one-year of free rent of space at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax.

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