Environmental Material Science Inc.'s soil remediation technology is gaining traction across the Prairies, as it prepares to continue fundraising after securing at least $250,000 at Startup TNT's Cleantech Investment Summit at the beginning of April.
"It was a total shocker," CEO and president Steve Siciliano said of the win. He travelled to Calgary to pitch his company's technology, which uses sensors to track and monitor pollutants in soil. It also stimulates naturally occurring organisms to clean up pollutants like hydrocarbons, which come from diesel, gasoline, or other spills.
EMS plans to use the funds raised at the summit to hire additional business developers to get in front of more customers, as well as to bring someone on to manage the company's gigantic soil flux database. "We have over 12 million estimates of carbon moving in and out of the soil and soil health, so our database system, which was good for the first three years, is creaking under the load," he said.
EMS has experienced substantial growth so far in 2022 — it initially expected to work on 16 sites this year but already has more than 31 in the works. Customers work in a variety of different industries, from distribution of products to commercial real estate, as well as companies looking to improve their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics. That also includes anyone who runs a "downstream location," such as gas stations or pipeline operators, Siciliano explained.
Traditional techniques to address any leaks that may occur near those types of sites involve digging up the soil that's been polluted and shipping it away to a landfarm or a landfill. But that is costly, as it destroys the infrastructure (an average gas station costs $20 million to build, said Siciliano).
Instead, EMS's technology provides an alternative clean solution that uses 99.9% fewer greenhouse gases than an excavation, as well as 95% less water. And perhaps most importantly, it aims to make soil healthy instead of getting rid of it.
"Most people don't understand how precious our soil is. It takes about 100 years to make a centimetre of topsoil ... and so every time you dispose of a cubic metre of soil, you're getting rid of about 100 million years of work, of capital, of what we're living off of," Siciliano said. "We're just making the soil happy again. As that ecosystem starts to get happier, it starts to ... heal itself."
An accidental side effect of EMS's technology is that it can also detect carbon sequestration. "If we want to increase the amount of carbon in our soils and decrease the amount of carbon entering our atmosphere, what we want to do is decrease CO2 emissions and increase methane consumption. And our sensors can determine that," he said. "So we're getting interest from ... basically any company that shares our worldview that saving the soils will save the world."