Written by Rachel Cooper, rachelcooper.ca
The AscendBio program in Cape Breton helps build industrial biotech and agritech start-ups. It does this through the Verschuren Centre’s scientific and technical expertise and infrastructure, and Innovacorp’s sector expertise, business support and international networks.
Every year, the world generates over one billion used tires, yet only about 100 million are recycled. In Nova Scotia, more than a million used tires are diverted from landfills each year through a Divert NS program.
Arduro Sustainable Rubber Inc. has developed a clean technology process that turns waste tires back into high-grade, valuable raw materials. “We use novel chemistry to recover 95 per cent of the materials that initially went into a tire,” says CEO Ian Lowe. Arduro is now working with Divert NS to evaluate the technology using Nova Scotia tires.
With offices in Kentucky and in Cape Breton and Halifax, Arduro is developing a demonstration plant in Nova Scotia. The company has seven employees and is working to expand to 15.
Its core technology was discovered about 10 years ago, Ian says. “It originated with an American Water Works study into how and why their rubber gaskets and hoses were degrading and failing faster than expected. In 2019, Arduro was founded to commercialize the technology, exclusively licensing it from the University of Louisville and continuing to develop green chemistry.”
Patrick Kroeger, the co-inventor of the technology and now vice president of technology at Arduro, was first involved with the technology as a chemical-engineering student whose professor worked on the American Water Works project. Ian has held finance positions in various investment banks, with a focus on sustainable energy, advanced manufacturing, and infrastructure.
In January 2020, at a clean technology conference in San Francisco hosted by Canada, Ian was alerted to opportunities here. “I talked to Suzanne Fraser from NSBI about Nova Scotia and the partnerships we potentially could develop if we were located here,” he says.
Four factors persuaded them to come to Nova Scotia. “We have access to key partners such as Divert NS,” Ian says. “The technical support from the Verschuren Centre is invaluable. Capital is available from government programs and an engaged angel network backed by Nova Scotia’s Innovation Equity Tax Credit. Business development support and resources from the Nova Scotia Innovation Hub and Innovacorp have been instrumental. And Nova Scotia is a logistics hub, with rail, sea and air transportation links that will provide access to our key markets in North America and Europe.”
Arduro is now in the large-scale demonstration phase. “Our novel chemistry is showing significant promise and we’ve demonstrated efficacy – that we can recover the materials in tires, primarily rubber and carbon black,” he says. “Carbon black accounts for around 30 per cent of the weight of a tire, but it is also used in dyes such as the ink in your pen or printer, in black plastic, and even in mascara.”
A big milestone for Arduro was to show that the output of their process was viable. “In mid- to late 2021, we were able to show a minimum viable product to potential customers as a prototype,” Ian says. “We’re expanding the process toward commercial-grade products. Our target is to start selling to customers in the next 18 months.”
Arduro’s main clients are expected to be tire manufacturers and carbon black manufacturers, but potential clients include mining, forestry, construction, and other manufacturing.
“Innovacorp, AscendBio, the Nova Scotia Innovation Hub, and NSBI have all helped us through the process of setting up a demonstration plant in Nova Scotia, whether finding the resources we need, getting the necessary permits, finding angel investors, or getting technical help from the Verschuren Centre,” Ian says.
“In a meeting last year with all the AscendBio companies, it was great to meet people in the clean tech industry in Nova Scotia. It’s a small community, but the fact that you have a community is important for sharing knowledge and experience. We’re excited to continue to progress here in Nova Scotia.”
July 21, 2022, Halifax, Nova Scotia