Earth Alive Clean Technologies
Since its foundation in 2011, Earth Alive Clean Technologies’ mandate has been to bring green alternatives to the market where chemicals are presently used. The Montreal-based biotechnology company began with the mission of developing a bio-fertilizer that was effective, inexpensive and organic. Through years of research and development, Earth Alive has accomplished this goal and developed microbial technology-based products for two major industries: agriculture and mining.
“It’s a corporation that we run and not a not-for-profit, but we still want to change practices, change the world and make it a better place for our kids. This is the level at which we can do it: helping our clients use better, cleaner products, while generating healthy profits,” states CEO David Gilmour.
Being a cost-effective catalyst for change
Earth Alive seeks to harness the power of nature by unlocking the potential of microorganisms to address issues caused by climate change and increasing human consumption. To do this, Earth Alive uses naturally occurring, non-genetically modified microorganisms called environmental isolates, identified and isolated using DNA fingerprinting. These microorganisms blanket the earth, and can be found in our water, soil and bodies. They produce enzymes, which are catalysts that can accelerate biological processes and keep the environment in balance. Earth Alive, in conjunction with many strategic partners such as Denmark-based Novozymes, uses specific microorganisms in two game-changing technologies—the first is a patented, government-approved microbial bio-fertilizer called Soil Activator. The second is a worldwide patent-pending microbial dust control technology for mining operations called EA-1. The products have both been certified 100% organic by Ecocert, a worldwide organic certifying body. They are not only environmentally sustainable, but cost effective to use.
“We all care about the environment, but if we want to change habits, the products we introduce have to be very effective, and economically viable. It has to make sense financially to use them. That’s what we come to market with,” says Gilmour.
“Imagine going to the grocery store and wanting to buy organic food. You see it right beside regularly produced food, and it’s the same price. It makes your decision that much easier,” Vince Ennis, Vice President of Development tells us.
Earth Alive’s products have been used in the coldest regions of the Chilean Andes to the Nigerian desert. In fact, 90% of the company’s revenues come from exports to foreign countries, in regions like Latin America, Africa or Europe.
“This technology works everywhere. One of the things we often hear is, ‘Well, here it’s different. We do things differently; we have a different environment.’ What we set out to prove in both divisions (agriculture and mining) is that our products are working everywhere. When we’re talking about microorganisms, we’re talking about the foundation of life at the biological level. It’s the origin of everything that has to do with biology,” explains Michael Warren, Vice President of Earth Alive’s Agriculture Division.
Agriculture’s last frontier
Microbial bio-fertilizers are a green alternative to synthetic and chemical fertilizers. As “fertilizer” is a legal word in Canada, before a company is legally allowed to call their products a fertilizer and put it on the market, they must go through a lengthy registration process with the Canadian government that can take many years. Last year, Earth Alive’s microbial bio-fertilizer was approved by CIFA (the Canadian Food Inspection Agency).
“We are very proud that we sell one of the few Canadian government-approved bio-fertilizers that use microbial technology. Microbial technology is the last frontier in agriculture,” Warren says.
The Soil Activator technology contains specialized microorganisms and a synergistic active to help the root system of a crop to grow longer and wider, therefore absorbing more nutrients. Only about 60% of a traditional fertilizer can be absorbed by a plant. Because the Soil Activator allows plants to absorb more fertilizer at a quicker pace, less is needed. The product makes farming more affordable, and can be used anywhere in the world, including places with poor economic conditions; Earth Alive’s bio-fertilizer was actually developed for such conditions. It has been proven via third-party testing and client use to increase yield for a wide range of crops.
Although Earth Alive’s bio-fertilizer is patented, there are other companies that have also looked into introducing environmentally friendly alternatives in the agricultural sector.
“In the agriculture industry there are other microbial technologies, but we mainly see other fertilizers or soil amendments that only use microbes or enzymes in their formulations. Where we differ is that we also use other organic carriers and ingredients in our formulations that make the products really unique. Our clients believe we have one of the best performing products in the industry. But competition is good, and there is a challenge to market acceptance when you introduce biological products. If there are other companies out there that are spreading the message and the values of using such technologies then it’s only good, for everybody,” Gilmour remarks.
100% Organic dust control technology
The other product that Earth Alive has developed is a microbial dust control technology for the mining industry, which can also be used in other industrial conditions. The EA-1 dust suppressant product helps corporations reduce their use of water and harsh chemicals to control road dust, which are often ineffective and expensive to use.
“Microbial technology is still a very new technology. In the dust control field, there are no other products like ours on the market. We have a worldwide patent pending product, and EA-1 is the only dust control product in the world that is approved as a 100% organic product by Ecocert,” says Gilmour.
The world’s 25,000 mines use enormous amounts of fresh water and chemicals to process ore and keep dust under control on roads. Dust control on many mining sites has become mandatory, and is crucial to increase productivity, conform to health and safety regulations, and prevent dust contamination to the environment. With the advent of greener technologies, such as the microbial EA-1 product, modern mining operations no longer need to use large amounts of water and chemicals to control the effects of dust contamination. Earth Alive’s EA-1 product uses a blend of microorganisms that once introduced into the soil, bind soil particles together before they become airborne. EA-1 can reduce a mine’s water consumption upwards of 80%, without the introduction of any chemicals into the environment.
“There are mines that use millions of litres of ground water per day to control dust; EA1 can reduce this water consumption by upwards of 80%. In many instances, water used by mines for dust control is in competition with human and agricultural needs. In some regions of the world, it’s negatively impacting that balance,” says Ennis.
A Canadian company with a global scope
As companies in the mining and agricultural sectors — a $4 trillion dollar marketplace — seek sustainable, cost-effective alternatives to traditional methods, Earth Alive has been growing quickly and has exciting plans for the future, conducting business with clients all over the world.
“Earth Alive really came into the market in a substantial way just as microbial technology was gaining recognition. Perhaps a couple of years ago when you spoke about microbial technology in agriculture or dust control, people didn’t understand. People could have been afraid, even. But we’ve arrived at a moment where the market is ready to give it a try. It’s a technology that has a lot of R&D behind it, and increasing commercial use,” says Gilmour.
Earth Alive was born from an R & D company, but changed ownership four years ago to David Gilmour.
The company has also since gone public. The other major shareholder in the company is the One Drop Investment Fund, an arm of the One Drop Foundation. The foundation, based in Montreal, is an NGO started by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, with the mission of fighting poverty by providing safe access to water.
“We decided last year to finance our growth and gain credibility with big multinational partners and clients. We had two choices when financing the company: to either go with a venture capitalist group or bring the company public on the stock market. We decided to go with the stock market, because we play in a field where transparency is very important. People that we wanted to do business with are starting to do business with us. This confirms our strategy and mission statement are good,” Gilmour explains.
As an example, just this year, Earth Alive acquired an important new client: a fair-trade, organic banana cooperative in the Dominican Republic. Earth Alive now ships organic fertilizers to Banelino, a cooperative directed and co-founded by Marike de Peña, the Chair of the Board of Fairtrade International. Earth Alive has also been conducting business in another country in the Caribbean. As trade opens up in Cuba, the company has been growing its sales and business relationships in that country as well as in other parts of the world.
“Microbial technology is an innovative, environmentally sustainable and economically viable solution for our changing environment, which affects everyone on earth—that’s Earth Alive’s business. We are good at it, and we intend to grow our presence substantially in this market in the years to come,” concludes Ennis.