Podcast episode 139 transcription
Peter Beaudoin Hosts Tamara Loiselle
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[00:00:00] Peter Beaudoin: Thanks Al. Hi, my name is Peter Beaudoin and I'll be your host of today's rainforest podcast. Today's guest is Tamara Loiselle she's the CEO and founder of Synergraze, a Calgary based company operating in the ag space. So welcome to Tamara.
[00:00:12] Tamara Loiselle: Thank you, Peter, for having me.
[00:00:14] Peter Beaudoin: So it's really great to have you here. I know that we've. Sorta we met actually prior to, to COVID and I think we've been trying to connect and get online for a while. So it's really good to have you here. So we'll just start off, I mean, tell us a little bit about Synergraze and, and what problem are you trying to solve?
We are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle, as a by-product of their digestion cattle belch methane, which is about 25 times more potent as a greenhouse trapping gas than is carbon dioxide.
[00:00:42] Tamara Loiselle: And cattle produce the equivalent carbon emission. As the entire global transportation sector, the same as every car, truck, train, plane, and ship on the planet combined each year. So we are focusing on creating a cattle feed additive that is capable of reducing methane emissions from cattle by approximately 90%.
[00:01:04] Peter Beaudoin: That's great. So what is it? So what, is the actual product.
[00:01:07] Tamara Loiselle: Ya, so its a natural product, which is very exciting. So it's a natural algae based product and, of the 4.9 million head of cattle here in Alberta having just 20% of them on this additive would reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking a million cars off the road each year.
[00:01:25] Peter Beaudoin: Okay. So, so when we talk about it's an algae base, so where where's it actually coming from? Cause that's, I think is a really intriguing thing about the technology. Where do you source the algae from?
[00:01:34] Tamara Loiselle: So we are actually building a production facility here in Canada and we are. Tank cultivating the algae ourselves.
So it originally obviously comes from the ocean and as a Marine species, but we are tank cultivating and processing then getting to cattle producers here in Canada.
[00:01:56] Peter Beaudoin: So just want to explore that a bit. So in terms of cattle feed, You know, a dairy cow. I mean, I don't know the exact number, but can eat 20, 25 kilograms of, of sort of a feed a day.
What's the feed. How does it actually work? What are you actually doing to, to add this to their food? What does it look like?
[00:02:12] Tamara Loiselle: The best analogy is a supplement pill or a little powder that we're just sprinkling into their food. It's less than 1% of their daily diet. Is this algae based. So it just gets mixed in.
So if you're at a feedlot, it's just getting mixed into they're daily ration by weight and they just eat their food the way they normally would. So there's no change in their feeding protocol.
[00:02:40] Peter Beaudoin: So let me, let me ask you about a little bit of the business drivers. Cause I know that like in markets like California, they've mandated sort of a 40% reduction in emissions from livestock.
Right? So by I think by whatever 24. You know, in California has some of the largest dairy herds in, in north America, but w w what's happening in Canada and the rest of the world with regards to sort of methane reduction. What's the, you know, where, where are we going?
[00:03:04] Tamara Loiselle: Well, you mentioned California, which is interesting because it is the very first jurisdiction on the planet to mandate methane emission reductions in cattle, those new legislative requirements kick in beginning in 2024.
And there's a lot of cattle producers in California that are really scrambling and desperately searching for solutions because a 40% reduction it is big and there's not a lot of solutions out there that can offer that. So a lot of them are spending millions. Anaerobic digesters to, reduce the methane from the manure piles, where our solution is going to be a fraction of the cost and far more effective if you're getting up to a 90%.
So in Canada, we don't have any legislation driving reductions, but we do have incentives, around, particularly in Alberta, around a carbon credit protocol for the reduction of methane in cattle. So it's a voluntary protocol so that exists and other jurisdictions within Canada, other provinces, as well as the federal governments are also closely examining having such similar protocols in their arsenal, which I think will definitely drive and insent methane reductions in cattle production facilities.
[00:04:19] Peter Beaudoin: Great. So obviously it's a, it's a great solution. So I wanted to talk a little bit about your sort of entrepreneur journey and it's interesting. Cause like I said, we had met at. You were pitching, I think it was the foresight event. You reminded me.
It was 2019. I thought it was 2020, but you know, it's that long ago, it's a year and a half ago, longer than that. And when we, you know, when we met, you had pitched and you went out and all of a sudden COVID hits. So what's happened in the year and a half since, since you came out of the Cleantech accelerator.
[00:04:45] Tamara Loiselle: And that was a wonderful experience, actually, that. Foresight platform. Calgary clean tech accelerator was great to really get me focused and thinking about things we could be doing as a, as a company. And then you're right. COVID hit. And I really focused our efforts on raising funds, developing our, get to market plan.
And, during that period of time, we did apply for the era emission reduction, Alberta. They had a challenge in food, farming and forest, and we were a successful applicants in that. So yeah, we really focused on raising money and getting our plans together. And now we're off to the races and building a facility.
[00:05:27] Peter Beaudoin: That's great. And I wanted to talk a little bit about that. You know, you say you one and I know how much blood, sweat, and tears you goes into this size of application. But just to be clear, I mean, from what was posted on the ERA website, you, you were awarded $5 million on a 20 potential $20 million project.
[00:05:44] Tamara Loiselle: Right? So firstly, congratulations. Okay. Sorry. $15 million project. So. and that's, that's huge. Right? So, so, and congratulations on that. Cause I know how hard it is to apply for those and, and, and to be successful. So can you tell me a little bit about, so, so what, what is this, the, the Cadillac natives project and what impact will this have on your business?
Well, our, our, I mean, our entire company is focused on this cattle additive. So as I mentioned before, is algae based feed additive. You know, the impact of the era grant greatly accelerates our. Timeline to market and really got things going for us in terms of, you know, provide, you know, other potential investors, making the decision to, to get in.
And, like I said, it really enabled our pathway to. commercialization and we have a three-year project outline that we'll have a first, first level commercial scale production facility that we'll be producing about 460 tons per year. Dry weight of our food additive getting to market.
[00:06:44] Peter Beaudoin: So, so th th that's great. So if I understand correctly, I mean, the funding will be used to build the first of its kinds facility to actually grow and produce the algae.
And so for, and you said 460 tons a year, dry weight. So I mean, how much, how many, you know, is this enough for the Alberta market, the Canadian market? How big is that? you know, at the end of three years, when you get to commercialization, what does that mean?
[00:07:04] Tamara Loiselle: So that 460 tons a year will feed enough cattle to result in a 78,000 tons per year reduction in carbon dioxide equivalent, from cattle and feed lots.
[00:07:18] Peter Beaudoin: That's great. That's great. So, I mean, is the plan then, I mean, if this is successful, then you actually grow more facilities or you, you then sort of scale, correct. This is really the you're proving the ability to scale this technology.
[00:07:30] Tamara Loiselle: Exactly. So then we would scale up from there and also increase the number of size of the facilities.
And work on our formulations. There is active ingredients, so we can also be looking at increasing the concentrations of active ingredients. So there's a number of fronts we're looking at to yeah. For expansion.
[00:07:46] Peter Beaudoin: Great. That's great. So, and, and it's a three-year project then on your, where are you building the facility?
[00:07:51] Tamara Loiselle: So we, we have activities in both BC and Alberta. And, our focus for our market or commercial rollout market is here in Alberta. And like I said, we are a, we are an Alberta based company, but we do need,actual free oceans. So we do have, some facilities out in BC as well.
[00:08:09] Peter Beaudoin: Tell me a little bit about that cause I am interested. I mean, you know, you say you, you, you harvest it from, is it you're harvesting it from the ocean and then you're growing it at the facility, is that correct?
[00:08:19] Tamara Loiselle: So we have seed stock. That's been sourced and everything pretty much happens on, on tanks in the facility.
[00:08:27] Peter Beaudoin: Oh, so you don't have to go back. It's not a continuous thing. You, you can sort of get it and grow from it. Wow. Okay. Okay. Well, let, let's talk a little bit about your, your sort of personal journey. I'm interested to know a little bit, I mean, you're now, because again, when we met you as a year and a half ago, I know the CEO is sometimes a lonely job, right?
So what what's, what's the biggest challenge, I guess, about being a CEO, you know, especially during COVID, I mean, what has been your biggest challenges,
[00:08:52] Tamara Loiselle: Biggest challenges. Well honestly its been pretty exciting. I've been pretty invested in this project for, for a number of years. So as things started to get moving, it's just been, it's been pretty exhilarating.
So, you know, it's been a wonderful journey actually. And then putting together a team and, you know, having a team that everybody works well together. And is, is running on all cylinders is it's all been really quite exciting, you know, because there was a couple of years to get things funded. And that was really the biggest challenge.
Once that fell into place. Everything else has just been running on, on, on full tilt.
[00:09:32] Peter Beaudoin: So how many staff do you have now tomorrow?
[00:09:34] Tamara Loiselle: There's about, there's six of us right now and there's kind of a core group. We will be expanding that as well, actually, probably within the next month or two, we will be looking for more folks, but yeah, it really went from one to six.
[00:09:50] Peter Beaudoin: It's interesting. I mean, I am, you know, cause you said you've been working on this for a few years, so. Where like, can you tell me a little bit about sort of, how did this start? Cause, I mean, I met you already in your journey when you were at the foresight accelerator, where did it start? I mean, you've been at this a few years. Can you tell us a little bit more about where to originated?
[00:10:09] Tamara Loiselle: So my background's environmental science within the faculty of agriculture at university of Alberta. So I always had this interest. I come from a ranching family, so I always had this interest in environmental science, but also connected to agriculture and other things.
I spent a number of years working with indigenous communities on, on environmental training and community capacity building had come across some research by actually a Canadian researcher who did it, who had his initial discovery. So Dr. Rob Kinley here in Canada, while he was at Dalhousie university and had, published some work around the connection between algae and seaweeds and methane reduction. And there's lots of algaes that will have a small impact on methane reduction in cattle, approximately, you know, say around 15% or so, but then he discovered, one particular species that had a, he was testing in vitro at that time that had a 99% reduction.
And that's what really kicked off this whole area. And. Really a lot of excitement because, because there's so much carbon dioxide, equivalent, greenhouse gases that come from the cattle production sector, there is, there's really a lot of people around the planet, investing resources and time and energy into this.
So once he made that discovery, it definitely fueled, development. It is a species that nobody has ever commercially grown before. So there are technical and scientific challenges to be. Developing and growing this. And so I had just reached out, after reading the research and the saying, Hey, I'll be really interested in commercializing this over here in Canada and kept that relationship going.
And, now here it is five years later and we're finally building a production facility
[00:12:00] Peter Beaudoin: So five years. Yeah. So we always hear of overnight successes, but usually it is five years. So, you know, it does take a while, like, so I can appreciate that. So I guess is, you know, again, five years you've gone through, I know the, like we said, the foresight accelerator, and now you've won the ERA funding.
If you were going to look back and go, Hey, if I did it again, you know, what would you do differently?
[00:12:20] Tamara Loiselle: Well, honestly, I don't think, I, I think everything like the timing just really fell into place for everything. So I'm not sure there's anything I could've done differently. I mean, getting also involved with the clean tech accelerator was, was a huge benefit.
Maybe that'd be one thing if I, you know, give suggestions to other people that are in startups, I like getting involved with that type of a accelerator and support was something that was very beneficial.
[00:12:45] Peter Beaudoin: But let's explore that. I mean, because did you find that or were you recommended to go into that? How did you, you know, firstly, how did you find the foresight accelerator?
[00:12:53] Tamara Loiselle: You know what I was at the, the technology awards event at SAIT just meeting people and actually I, and I, and this is horrible. I can't even remember the name of the woman, but I was just, just somebody I had met there that evening. a lady was telling me what I do and she's like, oh, do you know about the foresight accelerator?
And. Made some introductions and I, applied immediately and, ya it was accepted and it was the first time the foresight and platform had done a clean tech program. And, yeah, it was, it was a really good,experience and connecting with others CEOs of startups in a similar space
[00:13:29] Peter Beaudoin: challenges. Yeah. Yeah. So are you still in contact with some of them? Are you still working, I guess, with the foresight accelerator or how does that, how has that evolved after you've sort of completed the program?
[00:13:40] Tamara Loiselle: Yeah, so I'm still connected, with, folks from that program and the, and the foresight itself and, yes. Actually I had a couple of communications yesterday with one of the other fellow CEOs from that program.
[00:13:53] Peter Beaudoin: So it's been great. Well, that's good. That's good. So I guess is I did want to ask you, are you looking for investors? Right? Cause I know that after coming out, when I met you a year ago, you were, but now you've got this great project with ERA. So where are you on that front?
[00:14:06] Tamara Loiselle: So we, we have, successfully raised dollars and we're fully funded for the next 18 months or so, and then we'll be looking for investors after that, for that time period going forward. And so, yeah, always happy to chat with interested potential investors and, we'll be definitely making, an effort, to be bringing in more investment to in that 18 month window.
[00:14:29] Peter Beaudoin: So can I ask, I mean, looking forward, I mean, you know where, you know, if you want to say.
Cause obviously in three years, you're looking to have the facility built and starting to scale. So if we look forward in five years, I mean, where do you want to be with this?
[00:14:42] Tamara Loiselle: oh, in five years, I would really like to see good chunk of north America's cattle. On an additive, such as Synergraze .
Yeah. So, like I said, I mean just 20% in just our province alone is the equivalent of reducing, you know, taking a million cars off the road. So if we could have 40% or even more, or if it became industry standard practice to have a, an additive such as this, that can reduce. 90% of our methane emissions, that really goes a long way to making a significant dent in the greenhouse gas emissions from the cattle production sector, and mitigating the environmental footprint overall of the sector.
[00:15:25] Peter Beaudoin: That's great. That's great. So, if listeners want to know more, what should they do?
[00:15:29] Tamara Loiselle: Well, they can check out our website at synergraze.com and you can also reach out to me on LinkedIn.
[00:15:36] Peter Beaudoin: Great. Well, thanks for your time today Tamara. I know it's been a while since we've been trying to talk, so it was great to chat today, so thank you.
[00:15:42] Tamara Loiselle: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.
[00:15:44] Peter Beaudoin: And for the listeners, I want to say, thanks for listening. Have a great day.
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