The Pulse: Dec. 13, 2022

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  • -5°C: Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud in the afternoon. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 5. Wind chill minus 23 in the morning and minus 9 in the afternoon. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • 1-2: The Edmonton Oilers were defeated by the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 12. (details)
  • 6pm: The Edmonton Oilers (16-13-0) play the Nashville Predators (12-11-3) at Bridgestone Arena. (details)

Zhongyi Quan speaks into a microphone with a clicker in his hand after pitching Swift Charge

Swift Charge aims to make electric vehicle charging more widespread

By Karen Unland and Stephanie Dubois

As he made his pitch at a recent investment summit, Swift Charge founder Zhongyi Quan got a laugh from the crowd with his concluding words.

"Soon, Swift Charge stations will be everywhere, and you probably will be paying us to use them. So why don't you invest in us and own a piece of them?" he said at Startup TNT's Investment Summit VI in November.

That somewhat cheeky proposition from the EV charging company's CEO did not persuade Startup TNT's syndicate of investors that evening, as they decided to put their money into 48Hour Discovery, Umay, and instead. But Swift Charge is on the radar of other investors as it seeks to raise a $1-million pre-seed round to help with software development and further research and development.

Foresight Canada deemed Swift Charge one of Canada's 50 most investable cleantech companies, and it has been through the Alberta Accelerator by 500 and Plug and Play Alberta's accelerator. It has also raised $1.6 million in non-dilutive grant funding from Alberta Innovates and the National Research Council.

The company, which has 14 employees, has started to generate revenue from customers who want to install multi-unit EV charging stations with minimal upfront costs.

"What we do is we have smart charging technology," Quan told Taproot. "We can … integrate the EV chargers with other power sources to avoid any infrastructure upgrades so that we can install chargers quickly and at a much lower cost."

They do that through microgrid technology and a new power converter that can tie in everything: "EV chargers, solar PV (photovoltaic) batteries, everything in a very scalable way," said Quan, who invented the technologies on which Swift Charge is based and has 12 years of experience in the power conversion industry.

Microgrids are not new — in fact, they already exist in most homes — but they are increasingly discussed as an option to accommodate the expected demand for power as more people transition to electric vehicles.

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Headlines: Dec. 13, 2022

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • Spending approved in the capital budget so far would require taxes to increase more than previously proposed, city staff told council during a Dec. 12 meeting. Funding approved to date would require a cumulative 1.03% tax increase over the next four years. However, administration said these numbers were likely to change as budget deliberations continued. Among the spending approved was $35 million to demolish the Coliseum building.
  • Motions by Coun. Michael Janz to reduce the budgets for the William Hawrelak Park Rehabilitation project and the Lewis Farms Facility and Park project were both defeated. "There's so many projects that are going to be in jeopardy over the next decade that could go the way of Scona Pool because we keep investing in the new and not maintaining what we have," said Janz. However, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said Edmontonians expect investments in the projects. "I'm glad council made the decision not to stall or reduce the scope of Lewis Farms," Sohi said.
  • Edmonton police chief Dale McFee reiterated his support for the UCP government's proposed Police Amendment Act after the bill was criticized by NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir, who suggested it represents "a disturbing step towards the politicization of policing." McFee said the bill, which would give the province the power to appoint members to local police commissions, "puts balance into the equation" and is "nothing that we should be fearing." The bill would also create a new independent oversight agency called the Police Review Commission, which would have the authority to investigate complaints against police and conduct hearings, though the bill does not prevent police officers from serving on the commission. The bill would also expand the power of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) to investigate the actions of peace officers involved in situations resulting in injury or death, an authority that currently rests with police.
  • It has been two years since Edmonton became the first major Canadian city to remove minimum parking requirements for developers, instead allowing them to decide for themselves how many parking spots to provide. According to reporting by CBC, city officials and affected industries generally consider the move to be a success because it makes it easier for homeowners and businesses to use the space for other purposes. "A fear that we heard often was, 'This policy change is going to cause havoc in our streets, there's going to be no parking, folks aren't going to be able to move around,' but that is absolutely not what we've seen," said Coun. Ashley Salvador, who was working as an urban planner at the time and advocated for the change. One exception is the recently approved Metro 78 development near the McKernan/Belgravia LRT Station. The development includes almost no parking, prompting residents to worry about apartment dwellers parking their cars on the street.
  • Peace officers with the city's Animal Protection Act Unit have seized four cats and 17 dogs from the Happy Doggie Daycare, located at 9909 73 Avenue, after receiving a complaint concerning the animals' wellbeing. The pets were seized under Section 3 of the Animal Protection Act, which deals with animals in distress. In a press release, the city said six of the animals were reunited with their owners while the others, yet to be identified, are in stable condition and being cared for in the city's Animal Care & Control Centre. Pet owners who recently used the daycare or have information that may be useful to investigators are encouraged to call 311.
A seated crowd looks at a stage with Amii's logo projected on a wall

New Harvest and Amii to explore AI's uses in lab-grown food

By Karen Unland

A global non-profit dedicated to the advancement of cellular agriculture is collaborating with the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) to explore how artificial intelligence and machine learning can contribute to the science behind lab-grown meat.

"Cellular agriculture is all about how do we grow a lot of cells to make food inexpensively," said Isha Datar, the Edmonton-based executive director of New Harvest. "AI allows us to better understand what are all the complex factors that would go into a scale-up process for producing some cultured foods."

Cellular agriculture is "still in the really early days of research in some ways," Datar told Taproot after Amii announced the collaboration on Dec. 12. "There could be a ton of optimization that happens that's powered by AI."

That's precisely the sort of thing Amii likes to get involved in, said Stephanie Enders, vice president of product for the institute.

"In our unique role as a not-for-profit institute on AI, we're doing so much work to support industry as they're adopting this technology to fulfill its full potential, but we're also looking for partners that want to do collaborative research that … can make a real impact on the communities we serve," Enders said. "And cellular agriculture is really one of those most promising fields."

The collaboration is funded by Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative started by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy that "bets early on exceptional people making the world better." The values are aligned all around, Enders said.

"It's a shared feeling across the three organizations that exceptional people driven to change the world is where we should be making some of these investments."

It will also have tangible results, she added. A survey of the opportunities in the field, building on initial work from Zachary Cosenza and Michael Todhunter, will be presented at Upper Bound in May. Then a research fellow with a cross-appointment to New Harvest and Amii's advanced technology program will pursue one of the challenges identified in that survey.

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